Friday, 9 August 2013

Why I don't watch football, part 1: children and concussions

When I say football, I am talking about the North American game, not the world game.

Football is a brutal, full contact game.  It is rife with injuries to the feet, knees, back, arms shoulders, and worst of all, the head and neck.

Last fall a news item talked about concussions in football and the danger involved in repeated head strikes, even without a diagnosed concussion.  Reading that item put me off watching football altogether.  I have always known about the risks to the players, about the potential of gladitorial sport watched by mobs too cowardly and out of shape to suit up and play themselves.

It is not that part that put me off.

Many people argue that players "know the risks" of concussions and long term injury.  That may be true of adults - professionals make money and can afford to pay for insurance from damage to their bodies.  College players can be argued to have an education and a chance at earning a living while they are young but still "old enough to make the decision to play."

It is not that part that put me off.

There is, however, a growing number of concussions amongst teenagers and even amongst pre-teen children as young as six.  They are being allowed, encouraged or even forced to play while hurt, to "play through pain".  Parents in other sports (usually) do not ask children to do that, but in football, it has somehow become accepted.

It is that part that put me off.

Children are being put at risk of permanent brain damage, being made to play football while their brains and bodies are still developing.  Hockey may be a full contact sport among teens and adults, but even that game limits body checks and hits for the youngest children, it doesn't expose ten year old children to head-to-head collisions.  Even rugby (sevens and fifteens) do not pose as much risk, and rugby's governing world body recently changed the rules on scrums to reduce the number of head-to-head collisions.  Football has not done that, and has resisted attempts to try.

The mentality of coaches and leagues is slowly changing which will lessen the risk of damage to children's heads and bodies, but it doesn't eliminate it.

I cannot watch football in good conscience knowing kids are being put at such risk.  One may say, they are kids and will grow up, but those kids will become teenagers who continue to play football, and then adults.

Damage to the brain is not like an injury to the arm or leg.  A broken bone can heal, torn ligaments can be surgically repaired, etc.  Brain damage is irreparable and cumulative.

There is no way to fix the damage, only to prevent it.  And the best way to do that is not to play.

Football season is coming in September, but I will not be watching it.  I suggest that you do not watch it either.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments, challenges and questions are welcome. Only a coward doesn't allow people to disagree with him.

Spam of any sort will be removed. That includes "cut and paste" crap, unacceptable links, or anything unrelated to the topic at hand.