Join 3,425 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Mama, Don't Let Your Boys Grow Up To Play Football
October 27, 2010 4:04 PM   Subscribe

With all the recent attention in the NFL to dirty tackling, head shots, and concussions, some ground breaking research from Purdue University suggests that the routine hits to the head that happen 100s of times in every football game may be just as damaging as repeated concussions. The research was conducted on high school football players. The research uncovered marked reductions on visual memory tests in the kids who had not suffered a concussion and otherwise showed no symptoms of a head injury. These kids were, for all practical purposes, walking around with brain injuries during the season. The good news is that they all were back to normal by the next fall, suggesting that their young brains can heal themselves. (We are talking about the American brand of football here, but it doesn't seem like a real stretch that too many headers in the football played with a round ball might also be a problem.)
posted by COD (68 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
This freaks me out because my adopted kid's birth mom told us she would love for him to play football. I think it would be neat for her, but man, those injuries are pretty harsh.
posted by circular at 4:10 PM on October 27, 2010


Hope you don't mind me throwing in a few more links:

The Concussion Blog
Joe Posnanski's take on the whole situation.
posted by ORthey at 4:11 PM on October 27, 2010


The NFL's Official New Concussion Awareness Poster

"Remember, Everyone is Watching You!"
posted by Rhaomi at 4:13 PM on October 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


We're talking about 150 hits (A WEEK?!) at 40%-80% of what would normally give someone a concussion. Is this really that surprising?
posted by KGMoney at 4:15 PM on October 27, 2010


Back in high school I managed to run something close to a five minute mile when I was 250ish. Since I biked and skateboarded a lot I also had (have) huge legs and I liked maxing out the leg-press weight machines, doing proper reps with it set at 1000 pounds just because it was easy and made people go "WTF!?" My general PE coach - also the HS football head coach - was very excited by this and immediately wanted me to try out for football.

"Comon'! Play football! You're big and fast! You'd be great!"

"Ah, no. Thanks."

"Why not? Don't you want to play football?"

"I have better things to do with my head then slam it against other heads. And I don't really like football. Or coaches. You haven't noticed I'm a huge nerd?"

He failed me that semester. I think I hurt his feelings.

Granted I went on to accumulate a number of other mild concussions from skateboarding, skimboarding and going to ska/punk shows, but I'm still glad I didn't play football. I would have trashed my knees, my back and my head even worse.
posted by loquacious at 4:17 PM on October 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


it doesn't seem like a real stretch that too many headers in the football played with a round ball might also be a problem

I think that seems like a very real stretch.
posted by ChasFile at 4:19 PM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Also I think it's worthy to note that one of the first things a doctor will ask you if you're complaining about or presenting mental health problems isn't about, say, prior or current drug use, but "Have you had any concussions or head injuries? How many? When?"
posted by loquacious at 4:20 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The FPP refers to "dirty hits," but ORthey's link gets to the crux of it:

Those hits, he says, were exactly what he had been TAUGHT to do on a football field. They were clean hits. They were textbook hits. And now, to have those hits referred to as dirty, to be fined for them and perhaps (down the road) to be suspended for these kinds of hits -- as the NFL is now threatening -- well, supposedly Harrison isn't sure he wants to play that game.

Eventually we're going to get to the point where every hit is classified as "dirty," or we just acknowledge that there is no safe way to play this game. I read recently that football's days are numbered as a civil pastime that decent people pay attention to and endorse, ostensibly because of NCAA "corruption," but also because of research such as this. It seems like it's bound to come to an end - as the evidence continues to pile up, no parent will let his or her child play contact football, and as soon as that tap is shut off, the whole sport will run dry.
posted by rkent at 4:21 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


And this is just high school football, which is likely less intense with the impact strength than the NFL... For some reason, pads and a helmet seem to make players think that they're invincible. They don't really fathom the stresses they put their body and organs through during every play, and have been trained for years (since JV) to just deal with the pain and "walk it off".

I have said for some time now that if American Football wanted to be a real sport, it would play a 162 game season like pro Baseball. There would me MANY more opportunities for athletic youngsters to fulfill their pro player dreams (because of the attrition across such a long season), and there'd be real stats to gather about who actually is the best team. (Can you really judge who is better over 16 games?)

Plus, that might lead to pro football players and fans actually lobbying for real universal health care. Every supporter for that cause helps, IMO.
posted by hippybear at 4:21 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Where I grew up (Birmingham, Alabama, in the 60s/70s) football was KING. It was the religion. I didn't play football at all, ever, and I was pretty much a social outcast because of that. But I didn't care. I thought the lunkheads and rednecks playing football were mostly total idiots. I mean, hell, they were always getting their arms and legs broken, and the ready acceptance of such major injuries was, bizarrely, just considered routine, no big deal. And now I'm not a bit surprised to learn of these findings. Hell, I coulda told ya years ago: those boys just weren't playing with a full deck up there in they brains!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:26 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


If this sort of research eventually leads to the end of football as we know it -- and boxing b.t.w. - then so be it.

Rule changes might accomplish some progress, but interpersonal collisions seem unavoidable.

loquacious - 1000 is impressive as hell. I did 900 in freshman year high school, which was the best in my class. But I run like a cow walks, and at the time had all the coordination of a drunk. Nobody wanted me to play football. Plus I did not (and still don't) understand the rule set/strategy of the game. And at the time that I could have learned how to play, all my peers were so good at it that no coach wanted to try and train me.
posted by yesster at 4:28 PM on October 27, 2010


For some reason, pads and a helmet seem to make players think that they're invincible.

I've seen research that gymnasts tend to destroy their knees because they land hard on pads, not in spite of it. Ditto for heavily-padded running shoes: research indicates they tend to be terrible for your body (partially) because your foot can't feel the ground through all the padding and so you actually stomp down much harder in heavily padded shoes than you would if you ran barefoot. The result of all that stomping is that - because of all that padding, not in spite of it - runners who wear thickly padded running shoes tend to have worse knees than those who run without them.

I say all that to say this: I often wonder why we see research results like these for American rules football but not for rugby or Aussie rules, which on the face of it seem to involve just as much hitting, only without the pads.

And maybe what I want to suggest is: maybe all those pads are responsible for the injuries. And maybe not just because people instinctively hit harder with them on, but also for physiological reasons.
posted by ChasFile at 4:32 PM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


If we put them all back in leather helmets they might be a lot more protective of their heads. I'm kidding...but it does seem like armoring up just gives the players a license to play even more recklessly.
posted by COD at 4:34 PM on October 27, 2010


This should be interesting. We're basically seeing the collision -- head on collision, you might say! -- between American sports and American puritanism.

Sports are fun.
Fun must mask sin.
Therefore sports are sin.

This is a battle that usually resolves in favor of puritanism, but the sports complex is pretty powerful. My money's on a huge spate of press on how good for girls sports is (as a good friend told me, the best predictor of girls going to college is if they were a member of a team in high school). It won't seem to be a response to the football stuff...but it totally will be.
posted by effugas at 4:39 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Curious... Is more padding and better helmets really going to make this better? Or is it like the bareknuckle boxing vs gloved boxing deal? Because of the protection provided, it encourages firmer contact on a regular basis, perhaps?

I mean have they done these studies on rugby players? I sometimes think every hike would be more of a scrum if there weren't so much protection.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 4:44 PM on October 27, 2010


I was actually thinking about this today as I was doing my daily What's Wrong With America meditation.

The truth is, it actually doesn't matter how much scientific evidence we amass that football is dangerous or even deadly for kids. Americans love football and anybody who comes along and tries to get in the way of that is some kind of commie traitor who hates liberty and loves oppressive government regulation, or whatever. You would be able to show parents the CT-scans of their children's brains showing the chronically damaged regions and they still wouldn't care.

Sometimes I think that we just aren't ready to become a civilized nation. Our prejudices are too strong, our minds are too narrow, our vision too short-sighted.

But hey it's Fall so pass the brewskis and gather 'round for some Lingerie Football League olololololamericalololol
posted by Avenger at 4:49 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some say players should block and tackle with the shoulder pads instead. Doing that means choosing a side, trying to hit an opponent with the left or right shoulder. That technique will get you cut by any professional team before you can begin to perfect it.

The above is from Nate Jackson (former NFL player) in Times Op-Ed that ran a couple days back. It's a pretty reasoned viewpoint. I think the problem is that football is a game full of traditions, and any changes to traditions tends to spark a lot of backlash. The problem is, the game has evolved to the point where instead of ruining bodies (if you have a strong stomach, look for pictures of the knees of retired NFL players from the 60's and 70's) the game is now (and probably before now) causing brain damage. At this point, studies are showing that the game as it's played is responsible for the damage, not only illegal hits. Either the game is going to have to change dramatically, or people are just going to 'get over' the issue and find a way to ignore the problem. Unfortunately, as it is so bound up in tradition, it's probably going to end up swept under the rug.

I mean, you have players who the league is trying (pretty pathetically) to protect essentially saying 'Brain damage is part of the game! How dare you change the way I play to protect me and others!' As for suggestions to improve the game, there are people (former players and coaches) advocating playing without helmets, or without facemasks because it worked in the past.

I love the game, and I've been conditioned by years of following it, of seeing highlight after hightlight, to ooh and ahh over a big hit. The more and more studies showing how bad the chances of brain damage are, the harder it's getting to watch. I won't stop watching, and I probably won't stop cheering for big hits. It's how I was brought up, both by my family, and by the sport, and it'll be just as hard for me to change as it will be for the culture of the game to change.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:49 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


On Preview, yeah, COD and Bathtub Bobsled, that's actually what people are suggesting. Some people. Old people. Crazy people. Joe Paterno.

Guys (would) have to worry about broken noses, knocked-out teeth, which we would like to prevent, but you don't get anything for nothing.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:52 PM on October 27, 2010


Gregg Easterbrook, who writes the Tuesday Morning Quarterback column for ESPN has been hammering this issue home for a while now. I'd highly recommend the column for anyone that is interested in anything even tangentially related to football.

His recommendation in this week's column:
Put padding on the outside of the helmet, so the helmet stops being a weapon.

Pick up any recently manufactured football helmet from high-quality names Riddell and Schutt, or from Rawlings, which will re-enter the football helmet market next year. Slam it down on a workbench -- your arm will vibrate. The polycarbonate outer shell of a modern football helmet strikes like a sledgehammer. The modern helmet is stronger than the clubs warriors beat each other with in the Middle Ages.

Put a modern football helmet on your head -- it feels like a weapon. No surprise, then, that knowing they are wearing weapons on their heads, football players use helmets in that way.

So pad the outside. It's been tried before, and it worked.
__________________________________________________________________________

It seems like it's bound to come to an end - as the evidence continues to pile up, no parent will let his or her child play contact football, and as soon as that tap is shut off, the whole sport will run dry.

There is already significant evidence provided against allowing your kids to play tackle football should a concerned parent care to look around. The thing is though, in many states/counties/towns there is tremendous pressure put on these kids to play football, to beat their rival, to win state, to bang the hot cheerleaders. That culture isn't going to be easily altered by a few academic medical studies. The high school pipeline will continue, colleges will continue to make huge sums of money on the exploitation of amateur athletes, and millions of Americans will still tune in on Saturday and Sunday, playing the huge hit by the linebacker on the wide receiver going across the middle in slow motion over and over and over again.
posted by clearly at 4:56 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


loquacious - 1000 is impressive as hell. I did 900 in freshman year high school, which was the best in my class. But I run like a cow walks, and at the time had all the coordination of a drunk.

*shrug* I didn't know what the big deal was at the time. I don't think 1000 was best in my class, either, as they had a lot of really big guys at my school and a dedicated "power lifting" weight room for the people on the sports teams. I used to skateboard so much one thigh was a half dozen inches larger than the other, and the same for my calf muscle on the opposite leg. (One leg is basically doing squats while the other kicks, etc. Repeat a few hundred times per mile.) The first time I tried for 1000 I'd been working my way up to it without the coach noticing. He walked by and said "You can't lift that! You're going to hurt yourself!" and I slammed the weight stack to the top so hard it nearly tipped the machine over on top of me. "Ok, you can lift it. Now do reps!" and I did without much effort at all while he stood there and gawped at me, cogs turning in his head. (It wasn't until after this that I did that fast mile and he wanted me to play football.)

But I have freakishly strong legs. But there's no way I could do similar with free weights or doing squats. I fucking hate squats - and, well, weightlifiting in general. And I've never had very good upper body strength. I don't think I've ever been able to bench more then half my weight. I hate pullups/chinups. Compared to my legs my hands and arms are delicate snowflakes. I have trouble opening pickle jars sometimes.

I figured this out years later: As much as the meathead-jock stereotype holds true, you do really need to be able to think to play good football. There's a lot of tactics and thinking involved, and you have to do it while in the middle of what amounts to hand to hand melee combat. With weird rules. And concussions. Heh.

So, yeah, I probably would have been pretty good at football. I'm not the most graceful person, not the largest, but I've always been fast and quick on my feet, and I didn't really mind getting physical. Getting knocked around is fun. My favorite personal football moment was playing mud football with a bunch of skinny starving artists. I could just walk up and down the field at will with people hanging off of every limb while making "Raarrrgh" noises like I was Godzilla.

But as a career? Fuck that.
posted by loquacious at 5:04 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ya think? I make my kid wear a helmet whenever she's traveling on any of her 'vehicles' (bike, scooter, plasma car,etc.) because she's a total daredevil and her goal, at the age of five, is to figure out how to go faster. When she complains that her helmet is too hot or asks to take it off for just a little bit, I tell her the same thing every time: "Mommy can't afford organic brain damage". I can only imagine what some of these football players are suffering through.
posted by PuppyCat at 5:13 PM on October 27, 2010


"...routine hits to the head that happen 100s of times in every football game may be just as damaging as repeated concussions."

While I'm not disputing hits to the head may cause injury, a non-rotated player is only on the field for about 50 plays. Assuming he is hit in the head on every play (which I'm sure you agree is highly unlikely), that's nowhere near 100's.

If you were referring to 100's of total hits to the head occur in every game it would seem more believable, albeit unconfirmed. But that isn’t a relevant statistic because it doesn't clarify the amount a single person gets hit in the head which is what the article is all about.

It's an interesting article though :)
posted by WhiteWhale at 5:22 PM on October 27, 2010


There is an interesting parallel debate going on in English football right now, following a run of broken legs resulting from strong (and potentially illegal) tackles. There are questions around the current pace of the game, the style of tackle that has become popular, and whether match officials take a strong enough stance against borderline fouls. This debate is occurring within the context of a tradition of football that tends to value vigorous tackling as something that distinguishes English football from the way the game is played in Spain or Italy. Interestingly, several of the players responsible for tackles that have resulted in serious injury have not been English.

Of course, these are legs and not brains.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:38 PM on October 27, 2010


So, in light of this research, will Purdue stop fielding a football team? Because that would be really stand-up.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:40 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sports are fun. Fun must mask sin. Therefore sports are sin. This is a battle that usually resolves in favor of puritanism, but the sports complex is pretty powerful.

What?

Actually, nevermind.
posted by archivist at 5:42 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eventually we're going to get to the point where every hit is classified as "dirty," or we just acknowledge that there is no safe way to play this game. I read recently that football's days are numbered as a civil pastime that decent people pay attention to and endorse, ostensibly because of NCAA "corruption," but also because of research such as this. It seems like it's bound to come to an end - as the evidence continues to pile up, no parent will let his or her child play contact football, and as soon as that tap is shut off, the whole sport will run dry.

We've already decided our kid is not going to play football. And he'll get asked, because he's really tall for his age and promises to be built like a tank when he's grown. And we're in Texas.

I don't care if he begs, though. I don't care what anybody says. No one is going convince me to put my kid at risk of brain damage. Lots of other sports out there that don't involve routine concussions.
posted by emjaybee at 5:44 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


>>it doesn't seem like a real stretch that too many headers in the football played with a round ball might also be a problem

>I think that seems like a very real stretch.

I read a study linking brain damage and soccer headers long ago. Two seconds of Googling yields this: Nearly half of professional footballers suffer brain damage as a result of heading the ball, new research has found.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:05 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


it doesn't seem like a real stretch that too many headers in the football played with a round ball might also be a problem

I work for an insurance company, and a few months ago had reason to look at the stats for injuries per participant hour for a variety of popular sports. The specific numbers escape me, but both soccer and basketball are the cause of far more reported incidents per participant hour than football is.

By "incident" we mean here "claim where an insurer paid out money, even if only its Coverage M no-fault medical payments. So everything from a sprained ankle to a broken leg would count as one incident.

Granted, that doesn't tell us anything about the average severity of incidents, but as the research here seems to point to the fact that repeated small injuries, and even repeated small impacts that don't produce injury, can add up to something significant if you do it for a while.

I'm not sure this is all that counter-intuitive. I mean, sure, breaking your leg or getting an actual concussion is bad for you, but getting the snot beat out of you a couple of times a week even without suffering any dramatic trauma isn't exactly lounging at the spa, either.
posted by valkyryn at 6:22 PM on October 27, 2010


//So, in light of this research, will Purdue stop fielding a football team? Because that would be really stand-up.//

The game at Ohio State last week is pretty good evidence that this has already happened.

Purdue grad - allowed to make that joke. They are starting the kid was 4th string just 6 weeks ago.
posted by COD at 6:23 PM on October 27, 2010


So, in light of this research, will Purdue stop fielding a football team? Because that would be really stand-up.

Purdue fields a football team?


I kid, I kid.
posted by Despondent_Monkey at 6:23 PM on October 27, 2010


Sports are fun. Fun must mask sin. Therefore sports are sin. This is a battle that usually resolves in favor of puritanism, but the sports complex is pretty powerful.

What?

Comic books are fun.
Nintendo games are fun.
Facebook is fun.

What, have you just not noticed the American thing around freaking out about whatever the kids are doing?

It's impressive it took this long to hit football, but really, this is a Thing We Do.
posted by effugas at 6:27 PM on October 27, 2010


Ah, beaten to the punch by COD.

But on the issue of concussions in football, it's clear that it's something the NFL needs to take a look at. I know a lot of guys who deride Roger Goddell as the commissioner of the "No Fun League," and to a man they downplay the seriousness of concussions. I've tried to point them to the voluminous research showing just how serious head injuries can be, but I don't think they want to hear it. To them, it's as if football itself is under attack, when in reality, the head injury problem has become endemic at all levels of the game.

As for parents, when you put young kids out there to play a full contact game, you can't deny that you are taking an enormous risk with their futures. I do think that this means that fewer kids will take up the sport eventually, but the ingrained cultural and social pressures will take a long time to change.

When I was little, I felt bad that I couldn't play football until middle school. Now, I look on Pee Wee football with horror, and I'm so glad I didn't play it then.
posted by Despondent_Monkey at 6:36 PM on October 27, 2010


'Head the ball.' Not sure exactly when the phrase became current but at least since I was a kid, so it's hardly news to most that it's not too good for your health.
posted by Abiezer at 6:40 PM on October 27, 2010


effugas: I very much doubt that puritans are secretly behind or sabotaging these scientific studies or similar studies in the past.
posted by ODiV at 6:49 PM on October 27, 2010



I work for an insurance company, and a few months ago had reason to look at the stats for injuries per participant hour for a variety of popular sports. The specific numbers escape me, but both soccer and basketball are the cause of far more reported incidents per participant hour than football is.


Interesting. I wonder how much the macho aspect of football contributes to this.
posted by nevercalm at 6:57 PM on October 27, 2010


as the evidence continues to pile up, no parent will let his or her child play contact football, and as soon as that tap is shut off, the whole sport will run dry.

I think you overestimate a) how much a lot of parents actually care about their kids especially given that b) people are terrible at statistical reasoning. You also underestimate c) how lucrative a career in professional sports can be and d) how desperate a lot of parents and children are given that they see few or no other avenues for significant wealth. C and D are worsened by B, of course.
posted by jedicus at 7:06 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The specific numbers escape me, but both soccer and basketball are the cause of far more reported incidents per participant hour than football is.

Could be that a lot of football-related injuries are cumulative and don't show up until after the player no longer has health insurance. Like after a high school player joins the ranks of the uninsured, as is all too common. Or after a professional player leaves the league and promptly goes bankrupt, as is all too common.

Another way to look at it is life expectancy for NFL players versus NBA players and international soccer players. My guess is the NFL players have it much, much worse. I'd be shocked if NBA players or pro soccer players had an average life expectancy of "55, 52 for linemen."
posted by jedicus at 7:11 PM on October 27, 2010


This has nothing to do with puritanism or helicopter parents. The recent research is indicating that the damage resulting from repetitive mild traumatic brain injury is cumulative. So even relatively minor injuries not resulting in a loss of conscious will cause progressive damage over time.

Granted, the sample sizes of studies regarding football-related TBI injuries are still on the small side, but they match with TBI data from other sources. The anecdotal neuropath data by itself is sobering. Some of the brains of former football players they've recently examined show the same sort of β-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles found in advanced Alzheimer's patients.

That said, while this may indeed result in changes to the game, I don't see this ending football anytime in the near future. Dementia puglistica, the constellation of neurological symptoms resulting from years of boxing (which is very similar in pathology to football-related TBI), has been well known since the 20's, but people still box. As long as there are millions of dollars to be had doing something dangerous, people will do it.
posted by dephlogisticated at 7:15 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's something in what you say, effugas, but in sports, people get hurt, so that makes up completely for the fact that they are fun. If Nintendo games gave out random electric shocks, the puritans would never look at them twice.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:18 PM on October 27, 2010


I don't find comic books, Nintendo games, or Facebook fun at all.
posted by rocket88 at 7:29 PM on October 27, 2010


You're reading the wrong comic books.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:08 PM on October 27, 2010


If you were referring to 100's of total hits to the head occur in every game it would seem more believable, albeit unconfirmed. But that isn’t a relevant statistic because it doesn't clarify the amount a single person gets hit in the head which is what the article is all about.

Hundreds per person per game is overstating it, but cumulatively it's accurate. If each offensive lineman is in for 50 snaps, that's hundreds of head collisions between offensive and defensive linemen.

The article says the impaired kid were banging heads about 150 times a week in practice.
posted by stargell at 8:21 PM on October 27, 2010


And playing the wrong Nintendo games.

Facebook sucks though.
posted by graventy at 8:43 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is there any help for those of us who never played football but are still kinda slow?
posted by miyabo at 8:43 PM on October 27, 2010


nevercalm: Interesting. I wonder how much the macho aspect of football contributes to this.

Probably it contributes a little, but soccer and basketball have a ton of ways in which you can hurt your knees and ankles. Plus, the continuous action would result in a greater amount of time spent running around, when you can develop the sort of minor athletic injury that likely make up the majority of claims.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:48 PM on October 27, 2010


The legal liability for this must be giving lawyers at univeresities and the NCAA fits right now. I have to think there is at least a sliver of lawsuit potential in the fact that equipment and rules changes were not made quickly after these findings were published.
posted by humanfont at 8:50 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


While I'm not disputing hits to the head may cause injury, a non-rotated player is only on the field for about 50 plays.

It's not the games that are the real problem; it's the practices. That's where the players slam into each other repeatedly day after day after day. It's also where players can most easily cover up "minor" concussions.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:54 PM on October 27, 2010


humanfont: The legal liability for this must be giving lawyers at univeresities and the NCAA fits right now. I have to think there is at least a sliver of lawsuit potential in the fact that equipment and rules changes were not made quickly after these findings were published.

I don't know about that, the fact that the players recovered fully in the study might help them. Where this is really going to be an issue is in high schools; they don't get money from their sports programs (usually) and do get money from their test scores. Also, parents might sue over things like 'my kid flunked out because of brain damage from your sports program' which would actually be pretty reasonable, given these findings. Sports which cause brain damage as a matter of course probably shouldn't be combined with education (and nobody is seriously pretending the football team gets educated at universities at this point.)
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:05 PM on October 27, 2010


Here is an interesting read on liability of school sports teams. Lots of stuff about implied risks and consent as well as examples of successful and unsuccessful suits. It would seem to indicate that schools could be in trouble if rules changes are not made to limit the risks, coaching practices don't adjust to reduce the likelihood of injury and equipment doesn't change.
posted by humanfont at 9:19 PM on October 27, 2010


I read a study linking brain damage and soccer headers long ago. Two seconds of Googling yields this: Nearly half of professional footballers suffer brain damage as a result of heading the ball, new research has found.

It is a conversation that has been going on for a while and surfaces from time to time in the media, usually with a sensationalist gloss. A different two seconds of Googling yields this much more recent article which suggests the risk has been overstated.
posted by ninebelow at 3:01 AM on October 28, 2010


I'm glad to see this posted, because I've been seriously concerned about this wave of studies to hit in the last few months since I'm a fan of pro wrestling.
Oh yes, I said Pro Wrestling.
That stigma/joke you guys didn't make because goddammit, The Blue is classier than that?
This has led to some serious problems as in attempts to look more "real" the damage wrestlers suffer has gotten far worse.
See, the very basic move each wrestler performs hundreds of times in a match is called a back bump, essentially spreading the weight of *falling backwards on purpose* throughout your entire body. Arms out, feet flat, and most importantly, Head Up.
But like in most things you do repeatedly over and over, minor variations and mistakes can occur and you wind up hitting your head quite frequently.
Hitting the back of your head very hard will lead to problems I don't need to tell you guys about, but because it is so common, most pro wrestlers ignore whatever damage they do to themselves for just as idiotic reasons as why Pro Football players do.
As it turns out, one of the people making quite impressive strides to change this is a former wrestler, Chris Nowinski, who had to retire due to a concussion. He's essentially trying to do to Pro Wrestling what Purdue's research might do to Pro Football, and I support that completely. I don't like the idea of someone hurting themselves just for my entertainment.
posted by WeX Majors at 3:10 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


It is a conversation that has been going on for a while and surfaces from time to time in the media, usually with a sensationalist gloss. A different two seconds of Googling yields this much more recent article which suggests the risk has been overstated.

Did you read that article? What a load. Elbows to heads, indeed.

Either way, I think you'll agree that there's still enough of an argument that it doesn't seem like a [BOLDED] very real stretch that 30 years of playing soccer and doing headers could cause brain damage.

Which was the comment I was replying to.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:45 AM on October 28, 2010


@COD at 4:34 PM - If we put them all back in leather helmets they might be a lot more protective of their heads. I'm kidding...but it does seem like armoring up just gives the players a license to play even more recklessly.

Not far-fetched. Put a kid in football gear, tell him to run into a wall as hard as he can. He'll think - "Sure! I've got all this stuff on, I won't get hurt!" He does it - then does it a couple for times because it's fun or makes a neat noise. You divorce the pain from the act - and it becomes enjoyable. Bring back the pain, then it's not fun.

(Hmmm...)

Kind of like air bags - ever wonder just how many people drive recklessly because (A) they think their air bags will protect them if they get in an accident and (B) traction control and anti-lock brakes let them drive a little more aggressively than they would otherwise?
posted by JB71 at 4:30 AM on October 28, 2010


Put a kid in football gear, tell him to run into a wall as hard as he can. "Sure! I've got all this stuff on, I won't get hurt!

Aka the Gus Ferrotte
posted by humanfont at 4:58 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


As others have implied, one has to wonder whether the lack of protection in games like rugby actually make it safer, even though that seems sort of counter-intuitive. God knows there is no shortage of nasty injuries in rugby but I wonder if this sort of cumulative brain damage is less of an issue.
posted by Decani at 5:10 AM on October 28, 2010


Humanfront, the only more ridiculous injury in football would have to be Martin Gramatica (I think) jumping up and down after a field goal then landing poorly, causing an ACL tear that ended his season.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:11 AM on October 28, 2010


@Decani - this is what I've been thinking since I first heard about this issue on that New Yorker article months ago. Why aren't these people looking at Rugby? It's every bit as violent and fast as American Football, people still get hurt, but apparently irreversible brain damage is not, you know, common.
posted by falameufilho at 7:17 AM on October 28, 2010


Answering my own question, two interesting articles about rugby:

Football without helmets? Elsewhere, it's rugby

And a scientific paper from 2001 (haven't read to the end, but they probably recommend Rugby players use helmets, heh)

Concussion in Rugby: The Hidden Epidemic

posted by falameufilho at 7:26 AM on October 28, 2010


Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN's Page 2 did an article regarding the efficacy of using outer padded helmets.

The gist of it is that padding helmets on the outside will cause players to stop using them as weapons (i.e. James Harrison). There were a couple of players interviewed in the story who said that these types of helmets did protect them from concussions later on in their careers. While that is a small sample size, it may bear some investigation on a larger scale.
posted by reenum at 7:32 AM on October 28, 2010


I played 22 years of football. By anyone's standards I have a great job that requires me to use my brain at a high level of effectiveness. I seem to be ok.

Though I love the big blue, this isn't really a forum where I would expect real informed debate on this issue.
posted by Senator at 2:59 PM on October 28, 2010


I played 22 years of football. By anyone's standards I have a great job that requires me to use my brain at a high level of effectiveness. I seem to be ok.

So, spent a lotta time on the bench, didja?

jes' kiddin', Senator!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:16 PM on October 28, 2010


As others have implied, one has to wonder whether the lack of protection in games like rugby actually make it safer, even though that seems sort of counter-intuitive.

Try reading a bit about risk homeostasis.
posted by robertc at 5:51 PM on October 28, 2010


Kind of like air bags - ever wonder just how many people drive recklessly because (A) they think their air bags will protect them if they get in an accident and (B) traction control and anti-lock brakes let them drive a little more aggressively than they would otherwise?

Top work if you thought of this yourself [not being sarcastic]. This is a well known theory used in a number of fields including economics. The example taught is usually Nader and his seat belt crusade, and looking at its long term effects .
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:55 PM on October 28, 2010


I played 22 years of football. By anyone's standards I have a great job that requires me to use my brain at a high level of effectiveness. I seem to be ok.

Though I love the big blue, this isn't really a forum where I would expect real informed debate on this issue.
posted by Senator at 10:59 PM on October 28


You know about the usefulness of anecdotal evidence, right? I had this grandparent who smoked 90 a day and lived to be 96. Awesome, eh? Smoking is obviously okay.
posted by Decani at 11:13 AM on October 29, 2010


True, but for a lot of commenters in this thread, the brain injury angle is just an excuse to reiterate how much they hate football, football players, and popular/professional sports in general.
I've yet to see a football-related thread that didn't devolve into jock-hating.
posted by rocket88 at 11:24 AM on October 29, 2010


What thread are you reading? I don't see a lot of commenters hating on football, players or pro sports nor do I see this thread come anywhere close to devolving into jock-hating.
posted by ODiV at 11:51 AM on October 29, 2010


I've yet to see a football-related thread that didn't devolve into jock-hating.

Well, I don't know about today's high school jocks, but I can tell you one thing: the high school jocks of the 70s in Birmingham, Alabama did their very best to be worthy of your hatred.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:45 PM on October 29, 2010


And here's the eighth high school football player to die this season.
posted by bryon at 7:56 PM on October 29, 2010


« Older American Worker Cooperatives: a library, resource ...  |  Billy Ruane was a fixture in t... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments