Crisis in Football

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Pro football is facing the biggest crisis in its 103-year history as the injuries are stacking up and people are starting to realize the dangers that go with the sport. The NFL has always had injuries as football is a very rough sport but recently the injuries are starting to raise alarms. We are now seeing the long-term effects of major brain trauma and other contact-related injuries right before our eyes. This past year the NFL saw some of the scariest injuries the league has ever seen which is a big reason player safety is a huge cause for concern. Those injuries added to the effects of CTE we have seen retired players deal with have raised the question: How is the NFL going to protect its players?

Damar Hamlin is the most recent and scariest example of how dangerous playing football at the pro level is. Hamlin was hit in the chest (which is a clean hit) at the same time that his heart was in between rhythms sending him into cardiac arrest for almost 10 minutes. This is known as commotio cardosis and is incredibly rare but that won’t stop the spread of fear that has swept through the players and fans alike. 

Another scary situation we saw this season was earlier this year with Miami Dolphins Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa after he experienced the second concussion of his three total this season. Tua was hit hard early in the game and although he got up he stumbled and fell when getting back to the sidelines and he seemed off. Despite this, the Dolphin’s trainers claimed he was good to play and he went back out in the game. This decision was disastrous as Tua was hit hard again but this time he didn’t get up. He blacked out and his hands and arms were twitching and locked into a crooked position. He was carted off and diagnosed with a concussion.

There are a lot of ideas people are throwing around for possible rule changes and/or actions the NFL can take to better protect its players. Recently I interviewed Roxbury High School student Jules Pizzo on this topic. Jules is part of Roxbury’s sports medicine program and had this to say about the possible rule changes: “I believe that there are good rules in the NFL to avoid injuries but increasing the penalty for those illegal hits could change to further prevent them.” 

Another big worry in the athletics community is the fear of injuries among youth football players. There are a lot of opportunities football provides kids which is a big reason it’s one of the most played sports in the United States but is the risk worth it? Jules Pizzo claimed “ I think that the opportunities are worth it because if you are successful enough you can make it to the NFL. But that being said, if the youth was taught how to hit properly instead of worrying about how big the hit is then injuries in youth football would decrease.” while some would agree with what Jules is saying others believe that the risk outweighs all the possibilities the sport provides especially since 0.08% of youth football players go pro. Another upside of playing football as a kid is all the lessons it teaches you like how to win and how to lose but many other sports teach those same lessons without having to fear major injuries. 

Football is one of if not the biggest sports in the United States and the NFL leads all sports leagues in annual earnings in the country. That being said, the NFL is in danger of folding in on itself if it doesn’t do something fast to prove that they are capable of protecting its athletes to fans, parents, and players alike. Many people think the NFL isn’t doing enough in terms of player protection and there is a lot more that can be done. One of those people would be Jules Pizzo who said “I think there is more they could be doing. Sometimes they prioritize a player playing for a win rather than making sure they are healthy and keeping them on the bench.” If something major is not done fast the NFL’s supply of athletes could start to dwindle. 

Fear has never spread throughout the sports world as much as the terror that stemmed from the discovery of CTE. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE is a result of brain damage caused by repeated head injuries and the symptoms are Headaches, vertigo, trouble regulating emotions, and suicidal thoughts, it can also lead to dementia. What’s so terrifying about CTE is that it can only be detected after death. The brain condition has been seen mostly amongst former pro football players which raises the question: What kind of effect will the discovery of CTE have on the sport of football? Jules Pizzo (who has been doing extensive research on CTE) answered “I think it should make trainers want to sit players with concussions and keep an eye on players that may not have gone directly head to head because you can get a concussion in other ways. I think that in the future we will see an increase in helmet padding and the durability of the helmets after big hits.”

With this information, you yourself might be asking the same question many others have been asking for years: How will the NFL protect its players? The answer to that question will hopefully be solved sooner rather than later as the injuries are stacking up and are getting scarier and scarier. Pro Football has found itself in a crisis and waiting is no longer an option; the time to take action is now.