Most people are familiar with the bright flood lights, the loud blaring from the band and the indistinct cheering from the student section. However, all of these festivities give the casual fan a misconception of what football really is– an intense game that delivers hard-hitting, potentially life-threatening action on the field.
Statistics show that 14% of retired NFL players will develop Alzheimer’s sometime in their lives and another 14% will develop moderate dementia in their post-playing days. The NFL also estimated that nearly a third of former players “will develop dementia or other debilitating neurological disorders like Parkinson’s [or] ALS.”
At the high school level, the prospect of getting a concussion is much lower, given the difference in speed and power between professional and amateur players. Even with the disparity, it is hard to escape the reality of the sport, as each down holds the potential for concussion and other head-related injuries. Granted, there are new rules and safer tackling techniques to prevent them, but it is difficult to enforce these strategies when the intensity and physicality of the sport has escalated in the past thirty years.
The National Football League issues penalties for “unnecessary roughness” and “unsportsmanlike conduct” to protect the safety of players. However, these rules distort the idea of protection by giving off the impression that the League is taking extensive action to prevent concussions. In reality, the severity and frequency of injuries remains the same; its just that players are now getting flagged 15 yards for it.
To limit the frequency of amateur football injuries, a new law, AB 2127, will be in effect beginning Jan. 1, 2015. This prohibits teams at the high school and middle school level from holding more than two full contact practices lasting ninety minutes each per week. As an extra precaution, many schools across the nation are already implementing this new rule in their schools.
Ever since the ‘80s, the sport has evolved from a festive pastime to hard-hitting, smash mouth football. The only way we could limit t2he harmful effects of concussions and related head injuries is to entirely change the culture and identity of football. Only then would we be headed toward a safer future.
By Spencer Wu, Editor-in-chief