If you have played football, or know anyone who does play football, read this! “The Fragile Teenage Brain”
It is a great piece talking about the concussion problems in the sport, and more specifically, high school football. I played high school football. For four years, it was a huge part of my life and one of my main focuses. After high school, I worked as an equipment manager for the Wisconsin Badgers for another four and a half years. So I have quite a bit of experience and time around the game of football.
Obviously, concussion awareness has shot up over the last few years. Going back to when I was in high school, I definitely fell into the camp of “shake it off and get back out there”. There was nothing that was going to keep me off the field. I played through many injuries, but thankfully no concussions. I did, however, have problems during my junior year with terrible headaches by the end of most games.
As the science continues to progress and more info comes out, I find myself completely changing my views on concussions and football. I love football. I’m a huge fan, ask anyone who knows me. But I’m starting to wonder if there should be a place for football in the future.The more we learn about concussions, the worse it seems. And there’s no good way to deal with it. We expect helmets to fix things, but they aren’t made for that kind of protection. We can keep changing the rules, but so far things haven’t changed in terms of concussions. And if things change too much, the sport will cease to be football anymore.
Far worse, though, is the culture within football. Way too many players underestimate the damage they are doing. I know I did. And I watched countless collegiate athletes adamantly oppose switching to a safer helmet because of the way they looked. (They’ve since made the newer helmets better looking, but the concern over how gear looks will continue to be a ridiculous barrier to protection. Also, concussions haven’t decreased with safer helmets.) Even with all the science coming out, too many kids (also coaches and parents) are ignoring the risks or plain don’t know about them.
Another problem is that far too many kids don’t realize that their football careers aren’t going much further than high school. Positive thinking is fine, but a little realism might help kids realize that they shouldn’t be risking permanent brain damage for something they most likely won’t achieve.
Plus, the damage is hard to see physically afterwards. Players sitting out look okay, prompting people to question if their milking their injury or not dedicated to the team. Concussion education has increased, but the entire culture around football needs to change. There are plenty of injuries that people can fight through. Concussions aren’t one of them.
I love football, both watching and playing. But maybe football should die out. The cost is too high for the players, and too many don’t even realize what it is costing them. Sure, getting paid millions of dollars is quite an incentive to play, but those millions can’t do anything for the brain damage. And that’s only the select few that make it all the way to the NFL. What about the millions of kids who don’t make it, who don’t have millions of dollars to show for their concussions?
I have three younger brothers. I never tried to get them to follow my lead, but after I finished my high school football career, I thought at least one of them would end up playing football too. After all, we had all played football together for years growing up. None of them ended up playing football. I wasn’t disappointed or let down by this. But I never thought that I would be thankful that they didn’t some day. I worry about those headaches from high school ball and what they could have meant. When I’m older, I know don’t want my kids playing. And that’s what the article is all about. (Seriously, read it.)