By: Kylan W. Watson
The safety of football players was brought back into the national spotlight because of a new movie called Concussion. The movie follows the journey of Dr. Bennett Omalu played by Will Smith who discovered the disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) severely affected football players and caused them to commit suicide. This disease came as a result of too many blows to the heads.
The safety of players has become a top concern as research continues to show the long-term harmful effects on players and their families. Everyone from the NFL to the NCAA, to the Pop Warner leagues are rethinking rules and regulations that would keep players safe. However, one question that might need to be asked is are fans complicit in putting them in danger too?
Since 1997, 50 or more football players have suffered some type of head injury on the field according, to the New York Times. The NFL specifically has come under scrutiny because they just settled a lawsuit brought against them by former players who claimed the NFL knew about the dangers of concussions in football and didn’t tell the former players.
On May 2, 2012, a former player and linebacker for the San Diego Chargers Junior Seau shot himself in the head. Seau had been suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), brain disease that is caused by repeated blows to the head. His family donated his brain to research on CTE. Seau’s family were members of the group of former players and their families who sued the NFL. The study of Seau’s brain showed severe brain damage that has been found in five other former players. The NFL reached a settlement with former players and their families in the amount of $765 million dollars. More recently, former Raiders quarter-back Ken Stabler died of cancer. His brain was examined and it was determined that he also suffered from CTE.
Concussion concerns have caused contact drills to be eliminated in practice by the NFL for each of its 16 teams, kick offs now take place from the 50 yard line to eliminate kickoff returns and limit concussions, they have asked players to tackle the chest area and penalize any player who aims for the head, and have created a strict concussion test. This new test decreases the chances of a player with concussion, like symptoms getting back out onto the field because they have to be cleared by the team doctor and a doctor from the NFL. College, high school, and youth football have followed the NFL’s lead and have eliminated contact drills in practice as well, and are also telling players to tackle and hit the chest area and not aim for the head.
We as fans think the new rules are killing the game of football, and this is because we love seeing the big hit. Football brings out the aggressiveness in all of us.
The sport of football is very popular with young people 1,100 boys play high school football according to CNN, and 3.5 million kids ages 6-13 play football, but not all of them are in Pop Warner football leagues, according to the New York Times. Football organizations are aiming to change the way children play the game so when they get to the college and pro level they will learn to play safely and avoid concussions. According to CNN, a football player receives an estimated 900 to 1,500 hits to the head during a season.
The NFL is also facing an image problem as a poll conducted by the Public Religion Institute shows that 31% of parents would not allow their sons to play the game of football. The sport of football depends on younger kids playing through the different levels of football and ultimately making it to the NFL. As more people become aware of the dangers of playing football the sport may be in danger.
Americans love the game of football it is the number one sport in America. Fans love to see a player get hit hard by an opposing player as they receive cheers of approval from the crowd. Are we as fans complicit in allowing this concussion culture to be perpetuated in the game? We want to see bigger and bigger hits and when that happens we don’t disapprove. We cheer louder.
Football demonstrates how violent we have become as a culture. The violence is further enhanced by the militaristic set up of football. We support our team as they go up and down diagonal field scoring a touchdown or preventing the other team from scoring a touchdown through forcing them to punt or turn the ball over. Movies like Concussion are needed to show us the effect the sport of football has on the players.