Concussions and football: Is the game in jeopardy?

Kyle Murray, Staff Writer

The discussion between football and concussions is a rising trend in the sports world. The discussion has now been mainly circled, around is playing football a danger to brain health? The topic started to become a concern in October 2010 with the article from the New York Times called “Head Injuries in Football”. The article focuses on how scientist can now study concussions a lot more efficiently and it talks about what a concussion really is “Contrary to popular belief, a concussion is not a bruise to the brain caused by hitting a hard surface. Indeed, no physical swelling or bleeding is usually seen on radiological scans. The injury generally occurs when the head either accelerates rapidly and then is stopped, or is spun rapidly”.

Before scientific studies of concussions in 2007 not many people even knew what a concussion was or that it was a serious problem. The 2007 study conducted by University of North Carolina found that out of 595 retired NFL athletes who recalled having three or more concussions, 20.2% said that they have had depression. The New York Times article goes on to say, “having a concussion leads to three times the chance of having Alzheimer’s disease (memory loss) in men between ages 30-49”. The scary thing is concussion symptoms can take up to 30 years after a player’s career ended to show up. In 2010 the NFL announced that it would impose a rule noting “players who exhibit any significant sign of concussion to be removed from a game or practice and be barred from returning the same day.” This was the first time the NFL ever banned a player from returning from an injury and not allowing them to play the same day the injury happened.

The concussions and football discussion does not end at the NFL, it actually is a bigger problem in youth and high school football. An article from StarTribune.com says “Local administrators are worried that the headlines surrounding the NFL over lawsuits, debilitating head injuries and even suicides are making parents reluctant to sign up their sons for football.” Youth football discussions don’t always revolve around concussions and rule changes, age limit is usually the main discussion. ESPN had a week long discussion on football and concussions two weeks ago. One article talked about how there should be an age limit on youth football because grade school kids often lack neck strength and brains are growing rapidly, and if hit too much can cause significant damage. The article proposes a law where children should not be allowed to play football until high school. Then there are the few people that say football should be banned for all minors under the age of eighteen. CSN Chicago wondered what the natural public thought if this idea and therefore had a poll on its website; the poll asked “with increased knowledge of concussions in football, should high school football be banned” 67% of voters said “no let people decide to or not to take the risk.” Only 12% of the poll said “yes, the sooner the better.”

Even with all the knowledge of concussions within the game of football, the game still continues to power over other American sports. Over 1 million high school students play football; more than double the amount of basketball and 4 times the amount of soccer. So even with all the discussion of football causing concussions and brain damage does it still have an effect on people and what they decide to do? The answer is no, at least that’s what former NFL lineman Brad Culpepper in an interview with Fox news says “I don’t think the concussion situation will have any effect on the popularity of football, Football is king in this country. I think being aware of concussions is going to make for a better game”. The discussion will never end; it will just keep on growing and growing. The world will always argue on something, but the desire for youth and high school students to play football is still getting bigger and bigger each year even with better knowledge of the effects of concussions and brain damage.