Players face health concerns long after Super Bowl

Shadow grows over America’s game

The National Football League now has at least 765 million reasons to believe that football is in fact, a dangerous sport.

In August, the NFL agreed to pay $765 million to former players in order to settle cases accusing the league of withholding information about the dangers of concussions. A federal judge rejected the settlement between the NFL and thousands of former players. The judge ruled that the agreement of over three quarters of a billion dollars may not go far enough in covering all of the costs of every player’s need and the monetary value may need to be increased.

Baseball is said to be America’s pastime, but it might be time to modernize that age old saying. Football is at an all time high and has overtaken baseball to become the most common favorite sport in the United States. The upcoming Super Bowl will be watched on half the televisions across the country as well as in over 150 countries worldwide. College football is also thriving on its own as well as fueling the National Football League. A record 98 underclassmen elected to forgo their remaining college eligibility to pursue their dreams of being a professional football player.

Football and America go hand and hand, so when the leader of the country comes out saying that if he had a son, he would have to think long and hard about whether he would allow him to play football or not, questions certainly arise. Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson and Kurt Warner amongst others, agreed with Obama saying they wouldn’t let their sons play football. One hundred fifty two concussions were officially reported in 2013, and 171 the year before may be leading to the opinions of these decorated athletes.

PBS recently released a documentary titled “League of Denial.” The two-hour-long documentary reveals the truth associated with brain injuries caused by concussions and the regular wear and tear in former football players. Until recently the NFL heavily denied that football could be damaging to its players health after their careers were over. League of Denial discusses the work and research of doctors connecting the link between brain damage such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy and dementia to football.

Mike Webster was a hall of fame offensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers and was known as “Iron Mike.” He suffered from CTE after his football career and was studied by Dr. Edward Westbrook who said, “by the time I saw Mike Webster, I don’t think he could’ve handled grade school.” Webster died at 54 years old.

Junior Seau was a top five draft pick and 10-time all-pro linebacker in the NFL who knew early on in his career of the price he was willing to pay: ”You have to sacrifice your body. You have to sacrifice years down the line. When we’re 50 or 40 years old, we probably won’t be able to walk. That’s the sacrifice you make to play this game.” Three years after retiring, Seau took his own life at just 43 years old. His brain was studied, and it was determined that he had CTE.

In fact, 45 of the 46 former NFL players studied by Dr. Ann McKee and documented on League of Denial were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

It is clear that football is absolutely dangerous and damaging to football players’ health. The NFL has taken measures to make the game safer. National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement at the beginning of the 2013 season that included, “Within the NFL, safety-related rules will always be clearly defined and strictly enforced, and we will continue to work with our players, coaches and others to identify new and safer ways to play the game. We will build on our ongoing efforts to fund independent scientific research, develop better equipment, educate parents, players and coaches on safe and fair play, advocate for safety in all sports and enhance programs that support the health and well-being of NFL players and athletes at all levels.”

It is clear that the league is trying to make the game safer, but the question remains if that is even possible. Award winning Boston Globe sportswriter Bob Ryan said this about the safety of football: “The simple truth is that football can never be made safe. Even if the essential ‘kill’ mentality were changed, football can never be made safe. And it has never been more dangerous than it is now, thanks to a combination of there being larger, quicker, more lethal people delivering the blows and the lingering mentality brought to the game by coaches and players who cannot or will not change.”

It is undeniable that if you take the path of being a professional football player, you have the chance of giving your life to the game. Former players suffering from CTE have experienced depression possibly leading to suicide, memory loss, a short fuse, aggression and loss of motor skills. These symptoms not only affect the player but also the family as the divorce rate is very high with players suffering from CTE.

Football’s popularity is at an all time high, but many fans are calling the game “soft.” Fans love to see the big hits, but with recent research and the expansion of this research in the future, football will have to eliminate these plays if it wants to stick around. A future without football seems unimaginable, but it is becoming more and more clear with concussions and brain disease that the players who love the game are inevitably digging their own grave and literally giving their lives to football.

 

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