The end of football as we know it?
How should the National Football League deal with player safety issues?
Updated: May 10, 2012 4:14PM
With the tragic suicide of football great Junior Seau last week, could we be witnessing the beginning of the end of football as we know it?
No one knows what might have driven Seau to suicide, but speculation is rampant that repeated blows to the head playing football may have contributed to his decision to take his own life.
Like Chicago Bears great David Duerson, Seau shot himself in the chest. Duerson left a note asking his brain be studied to see if he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which is caused by multiple concussions. It has been determined Duerson did suffer from CTE, which can lead to depression.
Now we have the death of Seau, known for his toughness, who also shot himself in the chest. One can’t help but think that CTE was a factor.
The long-term effects of repeated blows to the head is becoming more and more of a factor for former NFL players.
Everyone has known for a long time that playing football can lead to debilitating injuries later in life — bad knees, bad hips, a bad back — and those risks were an acceptable exchange for the moments of glory on the field. But this new evidence that serious brain damage could be the result of a life of football is frightening for former players and their families.
Already we have heard that Jim McMahon, the Bears quarterback who led the team to its only Super Bowl win in 1986, is complaining that he is losing his memory. He walks into a room and doesn’t remember why he’s there. It sounds a lot like the early stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Suing the NFL
Last week, more than 100 players sued the NFL claiming ongoing debilitating effects from head injuries. Those 100 players are joining about 1,500 former players already suing for the same reason.
Considering the average career in the NFL lasts only about four years, can former college players be far behind in bringing about a lawsuit? And if former college players begin suing, why would a college stay in the business of fielding a football team?
It may start with the small colleges, but could easily spread to name schools.
And if colleges eventually find football too risky and dangerous, would high schools be far behind?
How can high schools continue to offer a sport that may cause brain damage?
These ideas are not so far-fetched. Just last February, economists Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier speculated about how football can come to an end — not tomorrow or next year — but within 10 to 15 years.
As more young people, probably at the insistence of their parents, opt out of football, how can the feeder systems continue to replace NFL players every four years?
I gave up watching pro football years ago. The excessive violence and injuries — especially to key players — made it seem pointless to invest time and energy following a team. When Bears quarterback Jay Cutler went down with a season-ending injury last year and the team nosedived … well, what was the point?
Football injuries are not just putting an end to a player’s or a team’s season, or even a player’s career. The lingering effects of head injuries caused by playing football are destroying lives. Why should we live with this?