| March 17, 2018

Column: Football Safety Concerns

April 11, 2016

Between spring scrimmages and the upcoming NFL draft, it’s safe to say it’s football season once again.

The sport of football is violent, even at the high school and middle school levels.

Injuries are common, if not expected. The crack of colliding helmets can be heard even from the top of packed stadiums, where crowds cheer as men risk career-ending injuries.

As players begin to suit up for spring practice, one question begs to be asked: is football safe?

Typical injuries include concussions, ACL and MCL tears, torn meniscus, ankle sprains, muscle contusions, torn hamstrings, shoulder strains, joint separation and dislocation.

Treatment for these injuries can range from an ice pack to surgery. Any injury can significantly limit a player’s impact during a season.

The previous list does not include the latest scare in the sport: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

According to Boston University, CTE is a “progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions and asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head.”

The first diagnosis of CTE was dramatized into the blockbuster movie “Concussion,” starring Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu.

Omalu diagnosed former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Mike Webster with the disease posthumously in 2002.

When kids grow up playing football, the forceful collisions can impact their brain development. Human beings are born with a set number of neurons for their entire life. These specialized nerve cells cannot be regrown or added artificially, only lost. When young men experience traumatic brain injuries, they risk losing nerve functions they will never recover.

Omalu argues that such a rough and violent sport should not be played until the brain is completely developed – usually between the ages of 18 and 25.

The human body is designed to withstand some bumps during our journey through life. In the case of football, the repeated tackling and occasional concussions build upon one another to create a damaged brain.

There is some risk of injury in athletics and there always will be. But where should the line be drawn? How much brain damage should be considered too much?

Everyone has the right to choose. People have the right to choose to smoke, drink or participate in activities that may put their health on the line. This is what makes our country great– the right to choose.

Parents have the right to choose if football is a safe sport for their children. But these parents should also be presented the facts and understand the risks involved in such a contact sport.

Great care needs to be taken to ensure the health of athletes of all ages, until further research is conducted on the subject.

Tess Fox can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @tesstakesphotos

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