US parents, think carefully before you let your kids play football

You won’t see posts on this blog very often about sports.  Not really one of my interests.  But I think this is an issue that needs to be widely known.

Scientists Dissected the Brains of 79 NFL Players. What They Found Is Disturbing. | Mother Jones.

Yesterday, the country’s leading investigators of sports-related brain injuries released what could be their most shocking finding yet: Of the 79 deceased NFL players examined, 76 showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. The researchers at the Boston University CTE Center have examined, in total, the brains of 128 people who played football at all levels—from high school to the pros—and 101 showed evidence of CTE. The numbers buttress a growing body of evidence that suggests that playing football at any level can lead to grave health consequences.

Any activity that leads to repeated head blows will compromise the long term cognitive health of the person engaging in that activity.  (For that reason, boxing is especially dangerous.)  Concussion symptoms are just the obvious signs, but even if a player never gets those acute signs, the effects of regular blows adds up over the years.

I fully get the cultural ties many of us have to these sports.  I work at a university with a nationally rated football team who often aspires to be the national champions (and occasionally succeeds) and I’ve spent my time cheering them in the stands.

But we need to put into perspective the practice of watching entertainment that involves young men destroying their bodies.   I’m not sure what the best thing American football can do to mitigate this problem, but until they do it, I would strongly advise that any parent be familiar with this before letting their kids play American football.

5 thoughts on “US parents, think carefully before you let your kids play football

  1. Hi ‘SAP’, just in case you haven’t gone back this far on Barber’s PT blog ‘The Human Beast’, on searching “sport as religion” Nigel Barber’s:

    ‘Is Sport a Religion?’

    … from 2009 came up as do a couple other pieces in a similar vein from The Atlantic and the Washington Post. The ties may go much deeper than we might appreciate when examined at a less psychologically fundamental level.


    1. Thanks amanimal. I’m not sure if I’d ever seen that one. It reminds me of the comparisons Haidt made in the ‘The Righteous Mind’ in his chapter on religion. I think he talked about the wave often done in stadiums and it evoking similar feelings to religious ritual. It also reminds me of the heartbroken fans often left behind when NFL teams switched cities, many of whom had a devotion that certainly seemed religious.

      In some ways, I think sports serve as something of a pressure valve, a way for us to experience camaraderie and conflict without the stakes being destructive, at least not for the spectators.


      1. One of the research projects that Connor Wood at the IBCSR is involved in has to do with the prosocial effects of behavioral synchrony:

        … and if memory serves he said something a couple of months ago about having some preliminary results to write about in a couple of months so any time maybe.

        I agree with the notion of sport as ritualized warfare and your “pressure valve” analogy – “camaraderie and conflict” in spades! Another PT post I came across:

        ‘Watching the World Cup: The Tribal Psychology of Football’

        I’ll have to reread at least that chapter of Haidt’s – thanks for mentioning it!

        Liked by 1 person

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