"Bicycle helmets do an outstanding job of keeping our skulls intact in a major crash. But they do almost nothing to prevent concussions and other significant brain injuries—and the very government agency created to protect us is part of the problem. The time has come to demand something safer."
The NFL is again thinking of getting rid of kick offs. Recently kickoffs were moved from the 30 to the 35 yard line in an effort to create more touch backs (and thus fewer returns of kicks) and reduce injuries. Now they're considering getting rid of kick offs altogether. [more inside]
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 (picture), 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) [more inside]
"NASCAR has sold its soul to the devil," says 45-year-old veteran driver Ricky Rudd, who's thinking about retirement. Maybe he's just pissed about losing to younger competitors. Or maybe he has a point when he says, "They are massaging this thing to target a certain crowd and before you know it, they'll have us up there flexing and in bathing suits like we're professional wrestlers." NASCAR's definitely been trying to broaden its appeal in other ways. And when is the increasingly popular racing world going to start requiring soft wall technology at all of its tracks, anyway? Last Sunday's wreck during Indy 500 practice seems to have convinced one driver, at least, that soft walls work.