Almost nothing is more exciting than an NFL game. The crowd roars, the fans cheer, and the players smash into each other at full speed. It’s raw, it’s intense, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
But what happens if someone gets hurt? Should we stop watching football because players get injured?
We shouldn’t have to stop playing sports just because people get hurt—it’s part of the game! But brain damage is different. It’s not like getting a broken leg or sprained wrist: brain injuries can be life-changing, even life-threatening. So how did we let this happen? How did we let football become such a dangerous sport?
Well, let’s look at some history.
Football is a dangerous sport, even for young men without known concussion history. The risks of injury are inherent to the game and can’t be totally eliminated. But what if they could be mitigated? What if injuries to the head, most specifically concussions, could be dramatically reduced?
Research into CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a brain disease that causes memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, and depression among other symptoms, has blown the lid off of football’s concussion problem. The NFL currently has generous programs in place to fund research into CTE and provide medical care for players with brain injuries after their careers are over. But there’s more work to do on both fronts. In recent years there have been many studies documenting the effects of repeated concussions on football players. These studies show that people who sustain multiple hits or concussions over a period of time may experience long term cognitive problems as part of a condition called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
The NFL said it is committed to improving player safety and has modified its rules to protect athletes from concussions, including prohibiting hits to the head or neck area. “The health and safety of our players is our foremost priority and we continue to make significant investments in independent research through our [Head, Neck and Spine Committee] as well as advances in engineering and material science that could improve protection for football players,” the NFL said in a statement provided by spokesman Brian McCarthy.