Brain health more important than football

Hugo Calderon, @HCAL09

Football is one of the biggest sports in the United States. It has even become a Thanksgiving tradition in some families to watch Thursday night football while enjoying their dinner. Football has been around for so long it would be hard to imagine having a society in which it didn’t exist.

However, football is a sport that involves heavy player on player contact, including intense head hits. Until recently no one had been asking any questions about what impact those hits had on players in the long run.

In July of 2017 Boston University released a study they conducted in which signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) were found in 110 out of 111 former NFL players. Ever since the results of the study were released there has been debate about the safety of the sport on both sides.

The fact of the matter is that football is overall not a dangerous sport. No matter how much protection is offered, rules are changed, or helmets are designed all it could take is a hit to the end to effectively end your career before it has even started.

This is not to say that football should no longer be played. It is an extreme solution but instead of trying to eradicate one of the biggest sports in the country, spreading awareness about the symptoms of CTE and how they can be  treated would go a long way.

Another cause for concern is youth football. While the hits may not be as hard as in high school or college, there is still a significant danger present for young players.

“The brain is going through this incredible time of growth between the years of 10 and 12, and if you subject that developing brain to repetitive head impacts, it may cause problems later in life,” said Robert Stern, one of the various authors of the Boston University study.

For children 12 and under, the brain is most susceptible to damage as it is still developing.

It was shown in the study that athletes who participated in tackle football, had more behavioral and cognitive problems as they got older compared to those who did not.

That raises another question, should tackle football be allowed for youth players? Most people would argue that it is up to the discretion of the parents but parents don’t always know what is best, especially if it is something that challenges the widespread culture of football.

Having tackle football at a younger age compared to high school or college football carries more severe risks. The long term brain damage can be intensified from playing at a younger age.

In youth leagues, it would be a greater benefit to the athletes to play flag football. While adults can make decisions for themselves, children should not be put at risk for the sake of football.