At dinner last week, my friend Ted was talking about this article he read. It's comparing football to dogfighting and ran in the New Yorker. There is a very similar article about concussions and brain injuries to football players and boxers in this one from 60 Minutes.
To summarize both articles in a nutshell, when you hit your head repeatedly, as football players and boxers tend to due, it can cause brain damage later on in life as the cells you injure degenerate over time. Eventually it looks like these guys have dementia or Alzheimer's, when in reality they have, according to the 60 minutes article, a "devastating, degenerative brain disease, called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. It was first seen in boxers and can only be diagnosed after death, when the brain is dissected."
Translation? While our football players make a ton of money and are famous for the few years that they play, they end up having major brain problems at extremely young ages due to all the trauma their heads have been through.
So why am I mentioning this?
As a mother, my first thought when I read this was "Thank goodness I have a girl. How would I tell my son I don't want him to play football? Maybe Rick can gently nudge him toward soccer instead." And that reminded me of my now brother-in-law back in high school when his mom banned him from heading the soccer ball during practice or games because he had received too many concussions on the field and she was worried about his head. Boy was she ever validated to read these articles.
It's not that I plan to never let my kids play football or head the soccer ball or box, but more importantly, I want them to understand the long-term dangers of head injuries and the type of sacrifice these players are making for their short-term successes and fame. And the seriousness of a concussion so they don't get right back up and play some more.
Moral of the story: Play smart. Play safe. And know the long-term risks before it's too late.