With the Super Bowl in Houston’s NRG Stadium just days away, PI Executive Director Larry Cohen published an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle about how America’s highest-grossing sport continues to injure and kill far too many players, and argues that the rules of the game must change.
The National Football League (NFL) itself has estimated that 28% of its players will develop serious brain conditions – double the rate of the general population. “Beyond the physical injuries from football, the game can inspire an attitude of recklessness, where winning is all that matters. We’ve all seen the injured player who, still physically able to play, shrugs off a headache and gets back on the field. When we watch this, as children, we learn that the definition of heroism and manliness is to tackle hard and brush off injury,” he writes.
Football is the most popular high school sport, and every year, more than 25,000 football players between ages eight and 19 land in the emergency department with head injuries. Among high school sports, football overwhelmingly accounted for the majority of catastrophic injuries between 1982 and 2013. And boys who participate in high school football are more susceptible to developing traumatic brain injuries, symptoms of which can surface years after the concussions occur.
“Unfortunately, tackle football just doesn’t work. Tackling inevitably means there will be head-to-head contact, in addition to other injuries. As a lover of football, I wish there were an easier solution than to ban it, but the fact is that tackling creates too great a toll on America’s youth. It’s one thing for professional athletes to take the risk for millions of dollars; it’s quite another to set a norm for a whole generation that the manly, fun thing to do is to disregard commonsense health protection. And though opportunities to become professional players are scant in reality, for many young players with few other options, football is seen as a gateway to college or to lifting one’s family out of poverty, despite the risks,” writes Larry.
Football injuries are not accidents—they are predictable and preventable. Health professionals, parents, players, the NFL, universities, and fans: we all need to speak up for making the game safer. Read more of Larry’s op-ed here.