Is Football Dead?

A comprehensive assessment of American football’s current state and a solution to ensure it continues to thrive

Our brains can’t handle football. The brains of football players. The title of this article does not include the word “professional”. This is because I am referring all football players brains and not only professionals. The current media coverage may lead you to believe that football’s main injury problem is the result of repeated concussions, or more specifically chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This injury is a particular concern for professional football players. However, this is not true.

The most worrying aspect of this problem is its long-term nature and not just one that was born in the NFL/CFL. This problem is being addressed by a series of studies. The evidence that football is a contributing factor to this disease is growing. I will not be able to provide any further scientific or medical support. Instead, I will focus this article on the effects of these research results on the American game that we love and how it might be modified to help it survive – as well as the brains of its many players.

Walking is a dead sport

Why do I give American football such a fatal moniker? Because it is as it is today. As any football player can tell, concussions are common. Neurologists already state that once someone has suffered a concussion, it is likely that they will sustain another. It takes less force to inflict the same injury, and it takes longer to recover. This is a fact we already know. Therefore, it is clear that football is fundamentally a sport that causes concussions.

Research is also proving the connection between concussion head injury and long-term brain disease. Thus enters C.T.E. This is how C.T.E. comes into play. Add a little math to get the answer. Football, which includes concussions, is a breeding ground of long-term brain disease. It is clear that many people love a sport that has a negative impact on the brain for a long time. If you consider that a young player who played from age 8 to his senior year of high school had 10 years of brain shifts from contact, it is clear that a professional athlete at age 28 or 30 could be in serious danger of developing brain injuries.

It would seem common sense to not do things that hurt. But this is football. It is an emotional pastime that is perhaps the most beloved game in the country. It is a powerful engine that generates billions of dollars and supports millions. How can I say that it will die when this is the view of the game? Mothers are the simple answer.

As scientific evidence builds, mothers will face indisputable evidence of their children being put at risk. This is not something that mothers are wired to do. While most attention is focused on the professional impact of this issue, the actual death of the game will be at its youth. Mothers won’t allow their sons play. The feeder system will be closed. Although it has already begun, as more study results become public, even the most passionate football moms will give in to pressure from others. They will be questioned about their motivation for exposing their sons.

Finally, there is a financial risk. This issue is already the subject of several lawsuits. These lawsuits have already led to several lawsuits. Insurers will face increasing difficulties in providing the same coverage for college teams, professional teams, equipment suppliers, and coaches. Many programs, if not the entire sport, could be at risk from the combination of the high level of coverage and the high premiums demanded by insurance companies.

The dilemma is how to save a sport that can be dangerous but still be enjoyed by all.

Bring It Back from the Dead

Problem is, the problem with formulating a viable solution is how the issue is being dealt with in a narrow way. It isn’t a problem for the NFL… it’s a football issue. Although the long-term effects are more evident at the professional level it is becoming increasingly clear that their genesis is at a lower level – possibly even youth recreational leagues. This approach has prevented a wider discussion and a complete solution to the problem.

The problem is long-term and the fact that it will likely end at the lowest level due to lack of participation by youths, the obvious solution is to make changes at all levels of football, from youth recreational to professional. This is the solution that I propose.

The Fix

It all starts with the first concussion. As it progresses, there is less volatility and more damage. The simple solution is to decrease the potential for traumatic brain injuries sustained by a football player throughout his football career. You can do this at every level of competition by limiting full contact during practice, for example, but the real solution should be to reduce the number of “contact years” in a player’s life. How and where can this be done?

It is not logical to cut down on college and professional level contact because that is where the most love, highest observance, highest quality of play, and greatest revenue generation occurs. It is best to cut down on youth involvement as it will pose a danger to long-term life. You can even eliminate it altogether. Mothers don’t want their child to be hurt, especially if it’s a concussion-related injury. However, it is much worse for mothers to witness this happen with their nine year old than it is with their 29 year old. Why expose the mother and child to this? Youth contact football should be stopped until either the 15th or the 9th grades, depending on which comes first.

Although I know that traditionalists and coaches at higher levels will be critical of this approach because it will make the player less skilled, I disagree. This might be true in the current structure, but the restructuring gives the chance to do a better job of providing high school and college players with more skill.

The 8-man flag football should be used for the age group between 8 and 10. The focus should be on the most fundamental skills and knowledge. When you look at current practice, it is clear that we are currently introducing a dangerous new game to children. This requires them to learn skills, positions and rules while also requiring them to execute full contact in a violent setting. Although it may be difficult for some to grasp the concept at the youth level, the reality is that the violence in collisions between 8 and 9-year-olds and grown men is the same.

We ask them to make proper contact, even though they have very little experience and practice. Even though most professionals have been playing for at least 15 years, they sometimes fail to execute properly and are more susceptible to getting head injuries. What can we expect from a first-year player of 8 years old? We ask them this while also expecting them to remember all the other aspects. It makes no sense. It is absurd. I propose that the contact aspect of the game be removed and that all coaching and teaching should be directed to the other aspects. This environment still has the competitive elements, teamwork and physical activity. This will ensure that the next level of football has a better-prepared player and we avoid or reduce the risk of a concussion in the first few years.

The 11 and 12 age group should move up to the next level of youth football. They will be able to play in an 11-man, but still a flag game, game. These youths should be exposed to the 11-man football game, which will include different formations for offense and defense, special teams, special skills (kickoffs punting, field goals, long snappes), and reinforcement of basic techniques. These youths will be exposed to more instruction and absorb more without needing to worry about contact.

The first transition level should be for the 13-14 age group. It should include flag football, but should also introduce the skills necessary for full contact. They should also be required to wear modified uniforms that include padded pants, shoulder padding, and a helmet. The helmet should look like the one used by lacrosse players. This will help them to get used to the equipment and its limitations. It is a different experience to try and turn your head to catch a pass while wearing a helmet than it is without one. Although these uniform changes will require some creativity, I believe equipment suppliers can quickly produce them.

In 9th grade, the tackle football game should be introduced. This is the next transitional stage. All high school freshman should play junior varsity football, and not higher. Tenth-graders should also be required to play juniorvarsity football, except where schools cannot field a team without 10th-graders participation. Even in these cases, varsity teams should only accept 10th graders that meet a weight requirement.

Size does matter in football. Another change at this level should include a decrease in games played against the varsity. If a school district has 10 games varsity, then the junior varsity should only play 7 to 8 games. It will be their first time playing tackle football. As a result, it can be very taxing for them. They will also lose strength, focus and technique as the season progresses. This could increase the chance of them getting a head injury. It reduces the chance of brain injury.

Participants in 11th and 12th grades can still play the same game as at the high school level.

All levels of football are making changes in regards to the actions taken after a concussion. This discussion is not intended to include that. However, it is important to continue to examine and improve these steps.

Everyone is involved

This comprehensive approach is not limited to what happens on the field. To make it an effective strategy for reducing the likelihood of C.T.E. leaders at all levels of football and society must support it.

Professionals should strongly encourage and support organizations that adopt this model. The NFL must get on board with this issue and lead efforts to change the game. Any attempt to hide, delay or minimize the inevitable results from the scientific studies will lead to public distrust. Worse, it will force the NFL into a position where it has to manage change, rather than being in a position to do so.

It is important that college programs encourage this, but they should also adapt their off-season camps to reflect this. Colleges should provide coaching clinics to guide coaches at all levels. The success of their varsity programs will depend on the quality of the coaches they choose to coach their junior teams. High school programs should pay more attention to this aspect.

A different level of the argument is that all State-level high school football leagues, school district, State education agencies, and State legislatures need to adopt policies, procedures, and laws that will require this structure. They should ban contact football for children under the age of 9th grade or 15th grade. By enforcing tackle football in all states, it will make everyone feel equal and prevent any entity (e.g. Private schools will not be allowed to act on their own to maintain the existing structure.

This new structure has the potential to inspire technological innovation. Flags are an outdated tool that is not the best way to play the game. A company that is entrepreneurial, such as the ones that provide laser tag equipment, might be able develop lightweight gear that can “signal” that a ball carrier has been touched or impeded by a defender. There are already companies that have begun to experiment with smart athletic wear and it would not be difficult for them to expand in this area. This structure could be adopted widely across the country, which would lead to substantial sales for an equipment manufacturer.

What is it doing?

Concussions from football can’t be avoided. Although many equipment manufacturers tried to make products that would prevent this, the evidence is overwhelming. The sudden impact that causes brain to shift can’t be stopped. It is impossible to eliminate sudden impacts like those that occur in the game. We can reduce the likelihood of such an occurrence and the long-term effects in the form C.T.E.

By reducing years of football player’s exposure, we can reduce the risk of developing other degenerative brain diseases.

This level of modification must be done to every player’s life cycle if football is to be saved. We must reduce long-term brain injury, regardless of whether the player’s career is youth or professional. The potential for concussions and long-term brain injury will be decreased if a football player has “full contact” years. We will all be able continue to play the sport we love if this threat is significantly reduced.

This article was written by me, who played football from age 8 through four years in college football. These included junior high school, high schools (including many playoff seasons and a 14-game state championship season), as well as four letterman years at college, two of which were as a starter.

In each of those years, I’ve had at least one concussion. Some required me to be removed from the game, others during practice. During that time, I witnessed many concussions from fellow players. Most of these concussions were treated with only sideline attention, and few received further examination by the football training staff.

There have been no concussions which were subject to follow-up neurological examination. Many concussions have been undiagnosed and not treated in my fellow football players who were involved in every level of professional football. While we may not know what the concussions have done to their lives, we can make sure that the next generation is able to enjoy the game they love and continue to play it. These are my suggestions for how we can change the game America loves and keep enjoying it.