WASHNGTON — Like most Americans, I love to watch the Super Bowl. What I like is the ads and the half-time show, not the actual game.
Football should be eliminated in the way it is currently played.
It is causing way too much head trauma and also what is known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Football is the sport with the largest cause of concussions and CTE, followed by ice hockey, soccer, and lacrosse. Originally, it was thought that only boxing caused brain injuries.
CTE was not identified until 2005 by Dr. Bennet Omalu when he examined the brain of a dead NFL player. There was yet another published study in 2009 that said football players were 19 times more likely than the general population to have dementia. Recently, there was a sad video from the wife of an NFL player. She said her husband was someone who had changed from a loving and caring person to someone she had to constantly take care of.
Although it can only be definitively diagnosed on autopsy, there are known symptoms of the disease. They are: difficulty thinking, which is known as cognitive impairment; impulsive behavior; depression; apathy; short-term memory loss; executive function problems, such as carrying out tasks; suicidal thoughts and behaviors; emotional instability; speech and language difficulties; trouble swallowing; difficulty walking; tremor or loss of muscle movement; focusing problems and trouble with a loss of sense of smell.
CTE is thought to occur as the result of head injuries and concussions and might cause areas of the brain to waste away. CTE may also affect the electrical impulses that allow for communication between cells. Sometimes it might be hard to diagnose, as people may have signs of another neurodegenerative disease such as ALS – known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or Parkinson’s.
In the 21st century, we’d never think of viewing a live show of gladiators. Yet shows with gladiators went on for hundreds of years. Usually, the gladiators were slaves – often taken as soldiers from other warring factions. If a slave won, sometimes he was rewarded with emancipation.
Tertullian (155-240 AD), a Christian writer, said, “The combats were murder, they’re witnessing spiritually and morally harmful and the gladiator an instrument of pagan human sacrifice.”
If we wouldn’t watch a gladiator, why now would we watch football?
Although we aren’t watching death when we view a game of football, we are watching a slow and equally disturbing brain injury.
I was shocked when I saw my niece playing soccer and catching the ball with her head. She was in junior high school at the time, and I asked my brother in law how he could allow her to play soccer. I said, “She could get a concussion.” He said, “She already had one.”
One option is to stop tackle football and just play touch or flag football.
“The game is inherently violent,” CBS said in a recent news story. “That may not be the case if we’re talking about touch football. But if it’s to be played with the rules that are now favored, there will always be an inherent risk, regardless.”
There are other options.
SaveInjuredKids.org offers suggestions for making football safer from concussions and CTE.
The website cites a study of 111 players between the ages of 6 and 18. Initial results show:
-Contact in practice, not games, was the most significant variable for head impacts incurred over the season.
-Less contact during practice could mean a lot less exposure to head injuries for young football players.
-Pre- and post-season imaging of the same players over multiple seasons will paint a clearer picture of the issue.
In terms of reducing injury in adult players, better helmets should be worn until tackle football is outlawed. A recommendation is to get a specific helmet. We have them for motorcycle drivers. Why not design one that has the padding necessary for football?
Football will be gone within years, as research shows it causes too many head injuries.
Like gladiators, it will be a thing of the past. It can’t happen soon enough.