Does Football have a Future?
: Football players are anywhere from five to nineteen times more likely than a member of the general population to suffer from a dementia-like illness. This is likely a result of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
), neurodegeneration caused by receiving multiple concussions or even subconcussions that are not detectable around time of impact. CTE has been linked to other mood and behavior changes, including suicidal depression (a great review of the medical literature generally),
and has been found in football players as young as 21
. And, of course, there is the sometimes debilitating physical disability (either acutely or later in life) from playing a hard-contact sport. The NFL has a long history of adjusting safety standards in bits and pieces (e.g., legalization of the forward pass
) to meet public concern over potential injury and disability from playing the sport, though still to some degree publicly denies a connection between football and brain damage
. New Yorker writer Ben McGrath
talks to football players (past and present), their families (often left behind by untimely death or dementia-twilight), franchise heads, and doctors to explore this history, the crushing legacy of sports injuries, and the question of whether it is possible to reform the rules to minimize the risk of concussion and thus the risk of CTE (if any such risk is acceptable). Would it still be football if such changes were to tone down the violence? (Yes, No [from iconoclast Buzz Bissinger]
) And, uncomfortably: is the sport of football unethical for its players, even if entered into on their own volition? (previously in the New Yorker
; previously on MetaFilter 1, 2, 3
* Of course, CTE is not in the slightest exclusive to football players, as highlighted recently by a major piece in the NYT on the life and death (by suicide) of a young NHL hockey enforcer.
* Much of the attention on CTE is due to the intensive investigative journalism of NYT reporter Alan Schwarz,
who more-or-less shifted to "sports concussions" as his newspaper beat.
* The Concussion Blog referenced in the article,
regularly covering not just concussions but a wide range of sports-injury topics.