Perhaps the most serious threat to the status quo of football is the abundance of recent studies concerning brain trauma from “sub” concussive injuries. These injuries were discovered through multiple MRI testing throughout the football season. The imaging details negative changes in the brain of young football players. Analysts fear most long term injury will be found in pre-pubescent players; Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, CTE. Sub concussive trauma is similar to repetitive micro trauma injuries which baseball pitchers receive. Pitchers arm damage is due to small amounts of injury inflicted to their elbows and shoulders over a long period of time. Based upon medical research, baseball (after years of needless debate) by rule now limits pitches a player can throw in a given period. (Except in Virginia high schools.)
Football helmets are designed to protect the exterior of athletes from trauma to the face and head. According to doctors helmets do not protect the brain from repeated trauma due to a violent sudden stop. The studies show that traumas are directly due to head collisions with other players.
While the sub concussive injury studies are somewhat new, the subject has already hit prime time TV. Last week’s episode of Harry's Law (NBC) dealt with litigation as a result of a player’s death culminating from repeated micro traumas to the brain’s frontal lobe from normal head collisions in football.
There is no doubt the nature of the game has undergone major changes since the 1950’s. Just watch old film clips. Many believe that the invention of the face guard began a revolution in equipment design that set in motion a style of football where violence to the opponent was a preferred tactic. There is much more on the horizon that football parents must face. In the past parents primarily faced orthopedic accidents involving broken bones and twisted knees. However now research shows they must contend with the risk long term and permanent neurological injuries (CTE) weighed in the balance of recreational benefits.
If football leaders acknowledge the scientific studies it will necessitate a paradigm change in the manner in which football is played. Recognizing the potential danger, The Ivy League has begun changes in the football program by limiting the number of times a football player uses his head in a collision. They have reduced the weekly number of full equipment practices. Virginia Tech football helmets now include a computer chip that transmits impact information for analysis and study.
Many Americans celebrate and are devoted to watching overtly violent entertainment like Nascar Racing, hockey, and football. While the violence is easily apparent in racing, the medical issues from steroids to brain traumas are being discovered each year with the benefit of new medical technologies. The auto racing and the sporting goods industry have engineered equipment and surfaces that allow faster human speed. The weight lifting industry has developed techniques for building bodies out of proportion to skeletal, tendon and ligament proportion. That has resulted in more spectacular crashes and more violent body collisions that humans were obliviously not meant to endure. The professionals draw huge crowds eager to see the car launched through the air or the player tackled so hard you could hear the echo of the bodies colliding throughout the stadium. Professionals are highly paid for the risk of a shorten life span.
These are not easy questions. The answers require mature and realistic solutions, not emotional knee jerk defensive responses from fans. Improvement in any human endeavor requires change. As new medical science unfolds, parents must confront or ignore the resulting medical warnings and decide if the recreational risk of football is appropriate for their children. The research implies that if football leaders want to continue an abundant supply of participants they are going to have to allay parental fears, in action not words, about serious long term brain injury. John@Pinkman.us and follow Pinkman Baseball on Facebook.
More information about research studies is available at www.momsteam.com. They do a terrific job!