Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Football’s Devastating Harvest

From the NY Times, courtesy of a facebook friend:

It’s difficult to say definitively whether significant injuries over all are on the rise, and it doesn’t matter. They’re too prevalent, period. And the N.F.L. needs to go far beyond its efforts thus far to assess and reconsider anything that might be affecting player safety: what kind of equipment, head to toe, they wear; the give of the turf on which they play; the way they train in the off-season. Maybe there should be weight limits. There should certainly be more rest between games and there should probably be fewer of them, though there’s been talk of the league’s moving in the opposite direction. 

The status quo won’t do. It’s untenable. It’s arguably unconscionable. On Saturday, the sight of a crumpled Chief with distraught teammates hovering over him became so common that the announcer remarked, in a voice too glib, on the “injury bug” that was “contagious for Kansas City at the wrong time now.”

More here.

This is one of those things I selfishly try not to think about too much.  Because I LOVE football.  And I don't really want to come to terms with the fact that there might not be any way to play the game, as we understand it, without causing life-shortening and/or life-diminishing brain injuries to the men and boys who play it.  I mean, I've watched over the last few years as the institution of football has tried to come to terms with this, new rules, better helmets, etc.  But a recent study strongly asserts that it's not really the big hits as much as the smaller, routine hits that happen with virtually all players during virtually all plays, play after play, game after game, season after season.  We already knew football is a dangerous sport.  What we've only recently come to understand is that it might be so dangerous that we just shouldn't play at all.

I remember getting a concussion, myself, during the two years I played in middle school.  It was a kickoff return, and I was walloped so hard I got dizzy and saw stars--of course, there was some sort of infraction and we had to line up and run the play again; I was totally loopy for that one, with my mind addled for at least another twenty or thirty minutes.  Fortunately, for me, my football days as a player were relatively brief.  But what about the guys who play from kindergarten through twelfth grade?  Through college?  Into the pros?  What's happening with them?  Do they even imagine, if they're experiencing some sort of condition, that something they did a decade or two ago, something they loved, might be responsible?

I really want football to get this figured out, to create a safe situation such that what these players do when they're young doesn't ruin, or end, their lives when they're older.  Of course, I think cancer-free cigarettes would be a nice idea, too.  That is, making football free of brain injuries may very well be impossible.  If that's the case, the only morally conceivable course of action would be to end the sport forever.  And I just can't imagine that.

This is truly f'd up.