This is a tough topic to discuss for someone who has played football since he was seven years old and loved every minute of it. For those that have never played there really is no sport quite like it. The emotion, the dedication, and the energy are rivaled by very few sports. There is a reason why the NFL is so ahead of every sport, it is completely unique and utterly intense. With football being as intense as it is and new legislation coming out to eliminate youth tackle football, is the game we love so much on borrowed time?
Player safety in football is one of the most polarizing topics in sports. Even with all of the equipment provided to players, which usually weigh about 20 pounds, football is still incredibly dangerous. As a player, you do not even think about how close you really are to causing permanent damage to your body, you’re just out there to do a job and have fun. When you’re knocking heads for four to five days a week for practice in high school and then participate in a high-intensity game on Saturday, the game can take its toll over the years even for those who do not go to play college football.
The scary part is that we have not even begun to scratch the surface on researching the effects of football. For those that have seen the movie “Concussion” (I am still mad Will Smith was not nominated for an Oscar!), we know that the long term effects of CTE and head trauma can be almost gruesome to a body. After the study of Aaron Hernandez’s brain suffering the worst CTE of any human being at the youthful age 27, football injuries are casting a dark shadow. Will new research be the end to football as we know it?
Personally, I am not sure there is a perfect solution to this. Some have said that we need to eliminate youth tackle football, with the theory that kids should not be colliding into each other when they are that young. This theory sounds good, but anyone who has watched a youth football game (ages seven to twelve) knows that there is not a lot of heavy hitting because the kids are simply not quick enough or heavy enough to create a large impact. Also, if we eliminate youth football, the players have no football experience which allows for bad technique and confusion, which anyone who has played football knows can be extremely dangerous.
The solution may lie in the equipment. Helmets need to improve in order for football to survive. There needs to be innovative solutions to the football helmet. The helmet when you put it on is very snug and close to the head, which causes enough of a headache. The padding is also only an inch or two thick. How is that supposed to absorb a football collision? The future of the sport may lie in companies like Wilson and Schutt who make helmets.
Football will make it to the end of this decade but if the sport does not act now, football might not see the decade after that. What do we tell our children who want to play football but might not understand? How do we save the game that we love?