The Future of Football: NYTimes Links Big Tobacco with NFL Concussion Study

soxfan121

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The discussion in the Junior Seau thread quickly went to concussions, issues of player safety and comments like this:

As a neurologist, I will tell you that I will *never* allow my children to play more than flag football.
Forget what the NFL is going to do today - the above is why professional football will eventually fall from its perch as the #1 watched sport in America. Parents are not going to let their kids play football. The rise and fall of Muhammad Ali is partially responsible for why no one wants their child to be boxing's Heavyweight Champion of the World; the suicides and other tragic deaths of ex-NFL players like Junior Seau and Dave Duerson will be partially responsible for parents pushing their kids to soccer and basketball.

Football is the new stripping. Lots of guys like watching it, but no one wants his kid doing it.
Jonah Lehrer on concussions in youth football
What would the end of football look like?
 

wutang112878

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I dont believe there is any research or mechanism for treating the brain after a concussion in the pipeline. I do think the NFL has made some strides in diagnosing concussions with the independent neurologists on the field. However, they still have a lot of work to do in terms of holding players out longer than they have been, and not allowing players to hide concussions. IMO CTE is probably going to be what really causes problems for the NFL. Considering the number of hits and collisions that lineman, linebackers and RBs take over the course of a career they must be prone to CTE. I have a feeling once some more research is done, and the diagnosis is more easily done, we will find a large qty of football players have this.

Eventually I agree this could impact the NFL, but I think we are a long ways away from that because the player pipeline is so large. Of all the college football players only 300 are really given a chance each year in the NFL, but there are over 100 D1 schools with 22 starters each, so only 13% of the starters even have a chance. Not that I dont think this could happen and ruin football, but I am going to have to see some of the top athletes start choosing soccer over football in high school before I get concerned about this.
 

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I think we are more likely to start seeing somewhat regional trends. Areas of the country (the south, Texas, Ohio, PA) are deeply ingrained in a football culture. A small southern town that draws 5K people to a Friday night football game is not going to see a trend away from the game at the youth level. While a town in RI that can barely get enough kids to even field a team may be effected sooner.
 

Old Fart Tree

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That sounds about right. For what it's worth, I would still let my kids play high school football (assuming they could make the team), but I would have Nazi level discipline about pulling them out if they got so much as a second concussion.
 

ragnarok725

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Not that I dont think this could happen and ruin football, but I am going to have to see some of the top athletes start choosing soccer over football in high school before I get concerned about this.
Worth noting that Soccer, in particular, has issues with concussions as well. Not at the level of football or anything, but probably worse than sports like basketball or baseball.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/grant_wahl/10/27/soccer.concussions/index.html
 

Fishercat

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The Tampa Bay Times has an article about Football's Huge Problem from 2006, before the CTE research really took off. The author was looking simply at weight and life expectancy for these players. The article itself is pretty interesting, but as the Reddit post points out, this stat is pretty frightening.

A 1994 study of 7,000 former players by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health found linemen had a 52 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease than the general population. While U.S. life expectancy is 77.6 years, recent studies suggest the average for NFL players is 55, 52 for linemen.
Assuming the statistic cited is true and still reasonably accurate, that's frightening.

I can't find stats from a lot of other professions, but it's not a major surprise that white collar workers (lawyers, doctors, and professionals) lasted a couple years longer than average (73 for male doctors, 72 for male lawyers, 70 for males, roughly, from a 1998 study, and I think that's more worldly as opposed to U.S.).

One article I saw said that the life expectancy for those in riskier jobs (truck drivers, coal miners, fishermen, policemen) is probably a few years younger. But I can't find anything that really accounts for a 20+ year difference in terms of jobs. I'm guessing things like obesity or smoking or heavy drinking have a bigger impact, but I think it's fair to say most NFL players aren't morbidly obese realistically (by BMI maybe, but their 260 pounds is probably a lot less fat than my 260 was, for instance).

The real question are what causes are leading to this. I don't think obesity will kill football, but if you can link something more naturally linked to football (concussions and CTE) to this drastically lower age expectancy, watch out.

Links to my references above:
http://www.sptimes.com/2006/01/29/Sports/A_huge_problem.shtml
http://www.quora.com/What-is-the-average-life-expectancy-of-doctors-nurse-and-other-medical-professionals
http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/chapter8.html
 

Shelterdog

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I think DLew's comment that it's the new stripping is just about right. Yuppie parents in blue states might keep their kids out of the sport but that won't really hurt the overall talent base all that much, particularly if the sports keeps making money because self righteous yuppie parents (like me) keep watching the sport, going to homecoming weekends, etc.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Fishercat, those stats remind me of the articles that've been popping up about how many 1994 Chargers are dead. Looking at those, the first couple guys who died really young were just freak accidents (lightening, car crash, etc.), but once you get to the late 30s, early 40s, it was a litany of "heart attack, enlarged heart, heart attack". Beyond concussions, it's not healthy for these dudes to be at such unnatural weights, specifically when they retire and it all generally goes from a weird mix of fat and muscle to a sack of flab like the rest of us, but twice as big.

These people do a lot of insane things to their bodies for our amusement, not just smashing their heads up. It's generally unpleasant to think about, and the more people think about it, the weirder a proposition is is being a football fan.
 

wutang112878

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Worth noting that Soccer, in particular, has issues with concussions as well. Not at the level of football or anything, but probably worse than sports like basketball or baseball.
Yup, the only reason I was suggesting soccer was because both football and soccer is played in the fall in high school. However, I dont think there is anywhere near the concern for concussions in soccer as there is for football even though the data suggests otherwise.

The real question are what causes are leading to this. I don't think obesity will kill football, but if you can link something more naturally linked to football (concussions and CTE) to this drastically lower age expectancy, watch out.
I think the nature of the game just isnt what the human body was really made for. Even though the players in the NFL are some of the best athletes on the planet, what they do to their body over their maybe 10 year career is enough to ruin almost any body regardless of weight, height, BMI or great genetics. Its the same reason that if you look at any pitchers shoulder after say a 10 year career, the damage that was done by pitching will be very evident, it seems the NFL game does the same but to the entire body unfortunately.
 

dcdrew10

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There are a lot of factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease and resulting mortality and morbidity that would effect football players more so than many other professions. Their body mass and (particularly in linemen), abdominal fat, and neck mass are all factors that would heighten their susceptibility to cardiovascular disease. They are also more susceptible to sleep apnea, which is a huge risk in early death and cardiovascular disease. Another issue is repeated trauma to the sternum.

There is some research going on right now looking into the effects of non-penetrating blast injury on the cardiovascular system on soldiers and there seems to be some evidence that repeated non-penetrating trauma (or one major incidence) can have long term negative effect and lead to pre-mature cardiac problems. The repeated hits of 10+ years of football plus all the other factors could really heighten the risk for heart attacks and stroke.

Football is dangerous to your long term health, especially if you put the strain of being player on a 6'2 300+ lbs.
 

dcmissle

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Few things are forever and nothing is guaranteed. If you look long term -- which owners of businesses worth $1B and up should be doing -- you'll note that the most popular sports in this country 50 years ago were baseball, college football, horse racing and boxing.

I think the present course is unsustainable. It's like smoking -- the Gov't stuffed GI's backpacks with cigarettes during WWII, and the consequences were manifested a quarter century and more later. We are just beginning to document and track the real world consequences of "bigger, stronger, faster." I don't believe you can maintain THE most popular sport with this carnage. Even if the supply remains intact, a lot of good people just won't watch.

The good old days don't work so well either both because they weren't so good (again, Jim Otto) and because it's contrary to human nature to regress, to not work passionately at being the next guy at 340 who runs a sub-5 40. I'm also very doubtful that technology solves this problem.

So the owners and Goodell are faced with the incredibly challenging (and for them, frightening) task of changing this sport enough, but not too much or too fast, in order to save it. They have to stem the Vietnam-style casualty statistics, but they have people like us saying, "it's not football anymore."

This accounts for Goodell being such a hard ass, and for things like Mara's seemingly casual remark that kick-offs will likely soon be a thing of the past.
 

collings94

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Is football dangerous? You bet. But as far as jobs go, I think Football player is far from the top. What about all those industrial workers who spend a lifetime inhaling asbestos?

As far as parents not letting their kids play, getting behind the wheel of a car is much more dangerous, but almost all parents let their kids drive.
 

Scoops Bolling

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On the head injury front, one reasonably simple solution would be to adopt rugby's tackling rules, or some fascimile thereof; no hits above chest level, all tackles must be wrap tackles. Similarly, you could ban both O and D-linemen from targeting the head when blocking/rushing. Obviously such a change couldn't happen overnight, but those changes would eliminate the overwhelming majority of concussions in football without drastically changing how the game is played.

The general health issue (i.e. post-career CV issues and the like) is a separate problem, and one that doesn't have any simple solution. Frankly put, as far as I'm concerned that's a hazard that comes with the job. If you want to bulk up to 350 pounds for 15-20 years, you have to be willing to pay the price for that decision. The league could do a better job of helping guys with post-NFL nutrition and exercise, but then again...it's the NFL, not exactly a shining beacon of long term care.
 

santadevil

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Is football dangerous? You bet. But as far as jobs go, I think Football player is far from the top. What about all those industrial workers who spend a lifetime inhaling asbestos?

As far as parents not letting their kids play, getting behind the wheel of a car is much more dangerous, but almost all parents let their kids drive.
Not to many people inhaling asbestos anymore in their jobs, because it was realized that it was dangerous to people's health.

And the car comment makes no sense in this argument at all.

Football players repeatedly take blows to the head during the course of a game (and hockey players, but not close to the same extent).
That it what's causing the CTE issues. This is and has been a huge issue and we are starting to see the effects of what is happening to these players after time.

Don Cherry was correct in stating that with more head protection, players become more reckless, which increases the speed of the game, which leads to harder blows to the head. I don't think you could take away head protection, but maybe lessen to invoke a bit of cautiousness in the players. I guess I'm more thinking along the lines of rugby players, who wear little to no head protection. I wonder what their concussion rates are like?
 

singaporesoxfan

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Is football dangerous? You bet. But as far as jobs go, I think Football player is far from the top. What about all those industrial workers who spend a lifetime inhaling asbestos?

As far as parents not letting their kids play, getting behind the wheel of a car is much more dangerous, but almost all parents let their kids drive.
These arguments are impossible to make without statistics or some other way to get a sense of relative risk. Every job has risks. At the same time, things not done have different opportunity costs. We weigh the costs of not doing something against the risks of doing them, and see whether the ultimate balance is acceptable. It's silly to say that "there are more dangerous jobs" than football because it's usually not the case that a football prospect's other alternative job are specifically those other dangerous jobs. It's not like Brady Quinn's only other choice in life was going to work in an asbestos factory.

Similarly, arguing that "there are more dangerous actions" than allowing your kid to play football ignores the very different sets of alternatives. It may be that it's silly to let your kid drive, and that people make poor and/or inconsistent risk judgements regularly (just as it's often a bad risk assessment to choose to drive somewhere instead of flying just because one has a fear of plane crashes). But it may also be that your set of alternatives to your kid driving might not be great (e.g. you may have to drive him around, he may choose to get to places using a bicycle), while the alternatives to stopping your kid playing football may not be much of a decrease in utility (e.g. he plays soccer, baseball, etc.)

What the research and tragedies seem to be suggesting is that the risks of football with regards to its long-term effects on the head are likely much higher than most people - players, team owners, youth coaches, parents - assumed them to be.
 

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I played football in my middle school years and loved tackling and hitting and just defense in general. I was considered one of the hardest hitters and I remember lining up for "hamburger drills" where you would just try to kill the other player. I remember just launching myself and being amazed at how hard we could hit each other. Multiply that by a factor of...what 10 to 20...and that is the NFL.

I think I may have been concussed one time as I remember feeling foggy and and that I was in a dream -- no idea however. What caused problems was back issues by throwing my back out of alignment. I've had to go to a chiropractor off and on since then and I can't imagine letting my kids play football because it just isn't worth it. I don't suffer any real pain, but if I go running or do a lot of physical activity my back gets out of alignment easily, and I am positive it is because of all the back issues I had as a young kid in playing.
 

DegenerateSoxFan

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I feel a little sad and conflicted about what we're learning. I played football in high school and had a blast. Maybe I lucked out in not taking too many bell-dingers, but now I'm wondering if the risk is worth it for my own sons. My wife and I have always agreed on no tackle football before high school. I wonder how I'll feel about it when one of them goes out for the team. My older son is 7, and a much better athlete than I was at that age.

And here's another thing.College is frickin' expensive these days. It's no longer a secret that tuition increases have vastly outpaced inflation, and that loan debt is killing people these days. There's still a significant incentive for kids with a certain level of physical ability to seek the opportunity to play on a collegiate scholarship. That scholarship is worth quite a bit. What do you say if your kid just happens to get through high school ball in fine shape, and has the talent and opportunity to play for a Division One school?
 

McBride11

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What do you say if your kid just happens to get through high school ball in fine shape, and has the talent and opportunity to play for a Division One school?
And that is probably a more accurate question related to that of opportunity cost noted above. I would wager that most D1 football players and NFL players would not have the same alternative's in life that Brady Quinn did. Or for that matter, most of us on this board have had. Playing a brutal game is often a path to somewhere else, usually college and less commonly the fame and fortune of the NFL. As was pointed out, most D1 players don't go pro, but I'm sure a lot at least got to attend college that may not have otherwise. (Whether the players take advantage of that opportunity or are being exploited, etc are discussions for another time).

In the end, how many of the people out there from areas where football is worshipped and being a star makes you a local hero with the possibility of college or NFL fame and fortune are going to be saying "oh well I may get my head bumped and in few years become depressed, so I will play soccer and get none of the girls or money." People, moreso these days, are into instant gratification, not what is going to happen years down the road. There is far more evidence that smoking and obesity are bad for you, yet I still see many people (including very intelligent ones) out puffing away in the dead of winter and obesity is still on a dramatic rise.
 

EpsteinsGorillaSuit

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And here's another thing.College is frickin' expensive these days. It's no longer a secret that tuition increases have vastly outpaced inflation, and that loan debt is killing people these days. There's still a significant incentive for kids with a certain level of physical ability to seek the opportunity to play on a collegiate scholarship. That scholarship is worth quite a bit. What do you say if your kid just happens to get through high school ball in fine shape, and has the talent and opportunity to play for a Division One school?
I have two daughters, so football is not likely to be an issue. If I had sons, under no circumstances would I let them play even high school football. It's just not worth it - plenty of other sports can teach you teamwork, camaraderie, and the value of goal setting and hard work.

As for college scholarships, so few students actually get football scholarships that the possibility does not change the value proposition of playing high school football at all. I would rather my hypothetical sons do any of the following before playing Div. I college football on scholarship:

1) take out massive amounts of loans
2) attend community college for two years before transferring to an in-state school
3) join ROTC and incur military commitment (probably safer than football)

My reason for this hard-line opinion is that the limited data available so far suggest two things: First, a small number of concussions can be life-changing - in aggregate 3-4 seem really bad, but I'm sure many young folks have life-long impacts from fewer. Second, the data also suggest that the cumulative effect of many lower level hits that do not cause concussions also are a bad idea.

I absolutely think that football will not be the most popular sport in America in 30 years.
 

pedroia'sboys

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Few things are forever and nothing is guaranteed. If you look long term -- which owners of businesses worth $1B and up should be doing -- you'll note that the most popular sports in this country 50 years ago were baseball, college football, horse racing and boxing.

I think the present course is unsustainable. It's like smoking -- the Gov't stuffed GI's backpacks with cigarettes during WWII, and the consequences were manifested a quarter century and more later. We are just beginning to document and track the real world consequences of "bigger, stronger, faster." I don't believe you can maintain THE most popular sport with this carnage. Even if the supply remains intact, a lot of good people just won't watch.

The good old days don't work so well either both because they weren't so good (again, Jim Otto) and because it's contrary to human nature to regress, to not work passionately at being the next guy at 340 who runs a sub-5 40. I'm also very doubtful that technology solves this problem.

So the owners and Goodell are faced with the incredibly challenging (and for them, frightening) task of changing this sport enough, but not too much or too fast, in order to save it. They have to stem the Vietnam-style casualty statistics, but they have people like us saying, "it's not football anymore."

This accounts for Goodell being such a hard ass, and for things like Mara's seemingly casual remark that kick-offs will likely soon be a thing of the past.
No one is going to stop watching football, five more players can kill themselves one each year. It doesn't matter people forget and move on, they do what makes them happy. You might get some people , but if you think the large masses are going to stop watching this sport you're nuts. No other sport even comes close to the NFL. Regular season games draw more ratings than the finals and world series.
 
Sep 21, 2011
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[quote name='pedroia'sboys' timestamp='1336128335' post='4108006']
No one is going to stop watching football, five more players can kill themselves one each year. It doesn't matter people forget and move on, they do what makes them happy. You might get some people , but if you think the large masses are going to stop watching this sport you're nuts. No other sport even comes close to the NFL. Regular season games draw more ratings than the finals and world series.
[/quote]

Maybe, Im not sure, I actually hope you’re wrong (in so far as the state of humanity) but youre probably not. I think it depends on if that number is 5, or 10 or 50/yr. I think more importantly and this is what my brain has been tossing around is the argument of the "feeder systems" I know as a parent of young children if the evidence continues to mount and changes are not made in the game/equipment (is that even possible from an equipment standpoint) my kids arent playing, period. And I love football, played in HS, season ticket holder for the Pats. And knowing how parenting has "evolved" since I was a kid (no helmets biking, cement playgrounds, no seat belts, rolling around in the back of the family station wagon, etc) you will see parents en masse making the same decision and then programs will get pulled so even the ones who still want to play cant. Of course this doesn’t even factor in the insurance issues.. Then were do the college players come from?

I guess I’m just regurgitating what’s already out there but I have to admit Ive gone from the game will always be here b/c "No other sport even comes close to the NFL" but if there’s no kids to play it what is there to watch? The Mexican on Philippine NFL (not trying to be racist but making the already made boxing analogy)? I dunno, hope Im wrong where theres this much money and history and passion an unforeseen solution could arise. I hope so.
 

( . ) ( . ) and (_!_)

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I do not yet have children but I would be really torn when they come to the point to decide to play high school football or not. I played in high school and I can't believe today how important it was to me. I was a fat ball of goo through middle school, generally lazy and pissed off a lot. Football really had a big effect on me. Taught me to exercise, lift weights, I lost fat and felt better. It was an important outlet for that teenage anger I felt. And all the other things people have mentioned, teamwork, friendship, dedication, etc... Being captain of a football team was my first taste of actual leadership, in the bigger picture it didn't matter but it taught me so much and gave me pride in myself, my body and what I could accomplish. Yes, there are other sports that could probably teach you many of the same lessons with less risk, but football has that certain man vs. man within a team sport dynamic that I think can really help a fat kid with poor self confidence grow up and mature.
 
Sep 21, 2011
62
I do not yet have children but I would be really torn when they come to the point to decide to play high school football or not. I played in high school and I can't believe today how important it was to me. I was a fat ball of goo through middle school, generally lazy and pissed off a lot. Football really had a big effect on me. Taught me to exercise, lift weights, I lost fat and felt better. It was an important outlet for that teenage anger I felt. And all the other things people have mentioned, teamwork, friendship, dedication, etc... Being captain of a football team was my first taste of actual leadership, in the bigger picture it didn't matter but it taught me so much and gave me pride in myself, my body and what I could accomplish. Yes, there are other sports that could probably teach you many of the same lessons with less risk, but football has that certain man vs. man within a team sport dynamic that I think can really help a fat kid with poor self confidence grow up and mature.
I take it you saw the Eric Olson tweets very appropriate with your sentiments, good stuff and correspondingly really difficult issue to grapple with.
 

Royal Reader

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Yup, the only reason I was suggesting soccer was because both football and soccer is played in the fall in high school. However, I dont think there is anywhere near the concern for concussions in soccer as there is for football even though the data suggests otherwise.
The thing about soccer, though, is the worst of the concussion problems come from a long time in the past, when the ball was heavier and harder than it was in the present day. See the tragic life of Jeff Astle as an example.

If I'm Aaron Rodgers and I see those statistics, I'm retiring when my contract expires after 2014. He's already got the ring, and he'll likely have something like forty million dollars after taxes. The marginal value of the next $40m or any additional rings I might win after age 31 doesn't seem worth the risk to my health.
 

wutang112878

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If I'm Aaron Rodgers and I see those statistics, I'm retiring when my contract expires after 2014. He's already got the ring, and he'll likely have something like forty million dollars after taxes. The marginal value of the next $40m or any additional rings I might win after age 31 doesn't seem worth the risk to my health.
This would probably be a logical choice for most NFL players, but it just doesnt happen. While there really isnt anyone interested in funding such a study, I would be very interested to find out if the football mentality ends up having players play too long. The whole 'you can play hurt but not injured' is widely accepted, and all the players are expected to play through injuries or return to the field as soon as possible. When Parcells got to the Cowboys he lowered the temperature in the training room to be ridiculously cold so the players wouldnt want to be there. And I think it was Hines Ward that criticized BigBen for not playing in a regular season game after he had a concussion. It seems to me that the football culture develops a mentality of 'you need to play through this', which might be an acceptable risk for a knee or shoulder, but then it comes to concussions, then expect these guys to be conservative with their bodies? I agree that most NFL players should probably retire before they do, but I can understand why they dont want to because of the culture they live in. It will never happen, but it might be a great idea for the NFL to have former players struggling with CTE like issue or long-term health issues from their playing days to talk to teams in training camp or at the rookie synopsis to detail their struggles. For example, I think Ted Johnson giving Anthony Gonzalez a summary of how concussions have affected him would be a very good thing.
 

cornwalls@6

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Think the up-thread comments about the game at the lower levels becoming more regional are spot-on. In leafy suburbs of northeast cities, and other places where the game is not that essential to the culture, I can see a significant number of public and private high schools dropping football soon. But I have family in Texas, and though they live in Houston and San Antonio resepctively, both large cities with 1mil+ diverse populations, high school football is insanely popular and covered by the media in both places. Even more so when you get out of the cities and into the small towns. It's just so ingrained in the culture through wide swaths of the south, and the rust belt, it's hard to imagine that hold being broken anytime soon. That I think will maintain a strong feeder system of players to college and professional football for several more years to come. And rightly or wrongly, I don't think fan/spectator interest is going to wane much at all, mine included. I'm not particularly proud of it, by I know when Sept. rolls around, I'll be all-in, and not thinking much about concussions or CTE.
 

crystalline

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Goodell spoke today at Harvard:

http://www.boston.com/sports/football/2012/11/15/commissioner-roger-goodell-advocates-culture-change-for-nfl/kR9RYUajQa0itRSshkiXAN/story.html

I'm not sure what his goal was, I don't think he broke any news in this presentation.

Addressing an audience of some 200 with a speech titled, “Leadership on the Road to a Safer Game,’’ Goodell talked of “changing the culture in a way that reduces the injury risk to the maximum possible extent — especially the risk of head injury.

“We want players to enjoy long and prosperous careers and healthy lives off the field. So we focus relentlessly on player health and safety, while also keeping the game fun and unpredictable.’’
 

j44thor

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Is the problem the concussions or the steroids? I ask because the NHL has had a much longer history of concussions yet aside from a couple guys who were employed simply to be glorified boxers they haven't had nearly the tragic consequences. Perhaps steroids and concussions are a bad mix but it is probably time for someone to blow the whistle on the NFL like Canseco did to MLB if only to save some lives.

Lets be honest at least 80% of all non-QB's have taken steroids at some point of their career be it HS, college or certainly at the NFL.
 

Super Nomario

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Is the problem the concussions or the steroids? I ask because the NHL has had a much longer history of concussions yet aside from a couple guys who were employed simply to be glorified boxers they haven't had nearly the tragic consequences. Perhaps steroids and concussions are a bad mix but it is probably time for someone to blow the whistle on the NFL like Canseco did to MLB if only to save some lives.

Lets be honest at least 80% of all non-QB's have taken steroids at some point of their career be it HS, college or certainly at the NFL.
My understanding is that it isn't the concussions per-se, it's the repeated sub-concussive impact. Malcolm Gladwell:
Much of the attention in the football world, in the past few years, has been on concussions—on diagnosing, managing, and preventing them—and on figuring out how many concussions a player can have before he should call it quits. But a football player’s real issue isn’t simply with repetitive concussive trauma. It is, as the concussion specialist Robert Cantu argues, with repetitive subconcussive trauma. It’s not just the handful of big hits that matter. It’s lots of little hits, too.

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/10/19/091019fa_fact_gladwell#ixzz2CM6ms3Vc
 

johnmd20

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Wouldn't hockey players be exposed to similar sub-concussive impacts during practices and games?
Not as much because of the glide factor on ice. It yields far more glancing blows than what you see weekly in the NFL, where two very explosive and strong bodies are smashing straight into each other over and over again.
 

Super Nomario

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Not as much because of the glide factor on ice. It yields far more glancing blows than what you see weekly in the NFL, where two very explosive and strong bodies are smashing straight into each other over and over again.
Hockey is more free-flowing too, and the players get to spend more time in space. The stoppages in football let the offensive and defense linemen line up right across from each other so they can smash into one another at the beginning of every play.
 

wutang112878

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Also, comparing hockey to football, football has the mini-collisions at the line every single play. On average: ( 4 d-linemen rush and make impact with the o-line ) * # of snaps per game = a huge number of mini-collisions that can quickly lead to a huge number of sub-concussive impacts
 

tims4wins

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Speaking of... apparently the NFL paid out some disability benefits all the way back in 1999

The NFL's retirement board awarded disability payments to at least three former players after concluding that football caused their crippling brain injuries -- even as the league's top medical experts for years consistently denied any link between the sport and long-term brain damage.
The board paid at least $2 million in disability benefits to the players in the late 1990s and 2000s, documents obtained in a joint investigation by ESPN's "Outside the Lines" and PBS' "Frontline" show. The approvals were outlined in previously unpublished documents and medical records related to the 1999 disability claim of Hall of Fame center Mike Webster.
 

crystalline

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Wouldn't hockey players be exposed to similar sub-concussive impacts during practices and games?
The earliest academic studies of such sub-concussive impacts were on soccer players and found some types of damage.
A possible conclusion is that heading the ball is bad for you.

Edit: here is the US Soccer federation's response; citations to the earlier studies are probably there.
http://www.ncbi.nlm....pubmed/11347686

#2: And here's a recent review in a solid journal:
http://www.ncbi.nlm....pubmed/21811187

Conclusion

It is possible that intentional heading in soccer represents a form of repetitive subthreshold mild brain injury over time and could be a cause of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Until accurate in vivo head impact data can be collected and correlated with postcompetition clinical assessment, this possible cause-and-effect relationship will remain hypothetical. There are insufficient evidence currently available to warrant the use of protective headgear, except in cases in which a high likelihood of contact with other players, goal posts, or ground is expected, and certainly not enough evidence to support a ban on heading altogether. Proper heading technique should continue to be stressed at all levels of play. Players, parents, and coaches should be aware that although laboratory studies indicate that heading a soccer ball involves much less momentum and energy transfer to the head than other contact sports like American football, boxing, and hockey, any possible detrimental effect from repetitive subconcussive heading may only become clinically evident decades in the future.
 

Reverend

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Not as much because of the glide factor on ice. It yields far more glancing blows than what you see weekly in the NFL, where two very explosive and strong bodies are smashing straight into each other over and over again.
I think this is the key. If you look at the hardest collisions in each sport--heck, even soccer--they are rough. But only football has this kind of institutionalized structural hitting of people lining each other up to hit each other. You sometimes get hits like that in hockey, just like sometimes you get hits where the guys are going the same direction in football. Football, though, is organized to have lots of head-on collisions in ways that other sports not named rugby are not.
 

Spacemans Bong

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Rugby doesn't have head on collisions. You can't lead with your head in any part of the game. It's not legal and it's also dangerous for the protagonist. Even something like the scrum is more about the shoulder than the head.


That's not to say you can't get a concussion playing rugby. I'm pretty sure I suffered at least one, if not two mild concussions playing rugby.
 

ZP1

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The real wildcard in all of this is how fast medical science can catch up and prevent or reverse the damage from things like concussions. If medical science were to stay as it is today, there's no doubt in my mind that football would have to drastically change in the next 20 or so years in order to properly address safety concerns. However, our knowledge and understanding of complicated medical matters like brain injuries grows by leaps and bounds with every passing year. There's a pretty good shot that within 20 years we're going to be at a level of tech that will either completely eliminate or drastically reduce the current safety issues.

20 years from now, you might have a scenario in where every single player on an NFL field has tech in their helmets that can actively scan and continuously evaluate a player's brain. If a player takes a hit that significantly jumbles things up, teams would theoretically have the appropriate medical staff on hand to immediately take the player out and address the injury.

On a side tangent, the NFL as it exists today is probably going to be dead within the next 50-100 years regardless. Judging from the steadily rising popularity of things like competitive video games (ie: e-sports), I think there's inevitably going to be some merger of electronics and real sports that ends up obliterating the current paradigm of entertainment anyways. Once you get to the point where you have the equivalent of extremely compelling VR (ie: you can make games 10x more violent than football that still involve a strong human physical aspect without people getting hurt for real), you'll give rise to hybrid sports that carry significantly more entertainment value than traditional sports.
 

epraz

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Once you get to the point where you have the equivalent of extremely compelling VR (ie: you can make games 10x more violent than football that still involve a strong human physical aspect without people getting hurt for real)
Sign me up!

 

jk333

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However, our knowledge and understanding of complicated medical matters like brain injuries grows by leaps and bounds with every passing year. There's a pretty good shot that within 20 years we're going to be at a level of tech that will either completely eliminate or drastically reduce the current safety issues.

20 years from now, you might have a scenario in where every single player on an NFL field has tech in their helmets that can actively scan and continuously evaluate a player's brain. If a player takes a hit that significantly jumbles things up, teams would theoretically have the appropriate medical staff on hand to immediately take the player out and address the injury.
We have some MDs on the board who can interject but my thought is that the on field equipment described above is very unlikely. Brain evaluations from equipment in a helmet? It'd have to be small, it'd have to be rugged. Ignoring how technically feasible the devices are, there is a huge problem with cost. One device would have to cost $100,000+ dollars; early on, the cost could be closer to a million. Assuming the cost is low, only $100,000, that's 5 - 10 million per team, just for the devices. Then players would break - presumably - hundreds of these per year. There would be also be calibration costs and medical personnel costs to maintain the devices.

Even if all of the above were possible; it would be impossible at the NCAA and high school football levels due to costs. Football would still have a problem with safety at its lower levels.

The NFL hasn't made many improvements in player safety over the past 20 years. I expect changes going forward but they will be slow to come. Its unlikely that this device will be available in our lifetimes, even if it were, it would likely not be cost effective. If the NFL began using it, it wouldn't be available for lower levels. (which is arguably worse, adding questions about safety to players/parents at lower levels)
 

epraz

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If you're serious about health risks, you have to change the way the game is played. This option is barely on the table, in part because the players themselves don't seem to want it.
 

JerBear

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Ed Reed suspended for 1 game due to repeat offenses of rules regarding hits to heads of defenseless recievers.

Ed Reed has been suspended without pay for one game for violations of rule prohibiting hits to the head and neck area of defenseless players.
https://twitter.com/...631935028629504
NFL said Ed Reed's hit on Emmanuel Sanders was his third violation in past three seasons. Hit Deion Branch in September, Drew Brees in 2010.
https://twitter.com/...635546785742849

EDIT: This was also posted in the AFC Playoff Picture thread but I didn't notice.
 

Kenny F'ing Powers

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I watched that hit and was curious if Reed was ever going to get suspended. The NFL got this one right. I think he's too old and too set in his ways, but he's been launching himself recklessly around the field for too long.
 

ragnarok725

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LogansDad

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Not so fast, my friend: http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/8657163/ed-reed-baltimore-ravens-suspension-reduced-50000-fine

Suspension overturned, $50K fine instead.

What a joke.
 

dcmissle

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Consider a bow to football royalty; Ed Reed walks into Canton his first year of eligibility.

The truth of the matter is Reed cannot tackle. The joke among people in my section at M&T is that he has not made one in 3 years. And for good reason -- his upper body is ripped up. The chance for another SB has him and Ray Lewis on this team beyond their natural expiration dates.

Goodell gets incredible latitude among the owners because they understand one thing well -- they own assets worth billions of dollars that could go poof in 20 years unless the Comissioner leads them through a narrow strait that has the sport emerging at the other end much changed yet essentially the same. That's a difficult task.

The problem isn't economic or legal. The tobacco industry has proved over the last 20 years that a business can survive just fine in the face of what appears to be ruinous liability if the demand is there. The problem is cultural -- this is becoming a blood sport in the same way that boxing did a half century ago, which eventually reduced it to a niche sport. Much of the public turns its head in the face of carnage; a greater percentage doesn't allow its children to participate. We near the beginning of this path, but it's the path we're on and it's Goodell's job to navigate another one.
 

54thMA

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Very sobering report last night on the HBO Inside Sports program regarding hits to the head in football. It was reported that the average player takes about 1,000 hits to the head per season, anything beyond 700 and your brain cannot fully recover, which is why the NFL players union has pushed for and gotten less contact in practice as it was reported about 75% of these hits come in practice. They showed brain scans before, during and after the season for a high school kid and his brain activity had dropped like a stone by the time the end of the season had rolled around.

College football does not have such a policy, two of the people interviewed for the story were former college players, one is 23 and cannot hold a decent job, the other is his 40's, lives in assisted living as his money has run out and was a former Harvard graduate and a lawyer, he cannot speak any longer and is bedridden, communicates via a computer, the room was extremely dusty here as I watched this poor guy try to communicate with the interviewer.

They also showed footage of an Arizona QB who got his bell rung not once but twice in the same play, he proceeded to vomit on the field, the announcers were calling for him to be removed from the game, he stayed in and later threw the winning TD pass, another clip showed a USC player who got waxed on a punt return, stumbled to his feet and fell face down on the field, he came out for a few plays and went back into the game.

If I had a son who wanted to play football, I'd have an extremely hard time saying it was ok.

Not worth the risk IMO, but hey, that's just me, I'd want to see my son live a long and happy life, not end up like a piece of disposable trash on the side of the NCAA college football highway.