The Problems with Football

By Adaline Bisese

Football is played by millions of young men and boys every day in the United States. It can be played both recreationally and professionally at any skill level and has been embedded in our culture for decades, but has its bad side.

The sport, football, originated as a set of rule changes to rugby, making the football known to most Americans actually a cross between rugby and soccer. Because of rugby’s even more violent, unsafe nature, rules were put in place that coincide with some of the rules of soccer. After a series of petitions for officialized rule changes, the sport known as American Football was created in the 1880s. Athletic clubs began recognizing the sport. This inspired many of the clubs to form their own teams. By the end of the 1880s, competition in the football world grew. Due to this new found competitiveness, teams began scouting the best player to join their teams. This lead to the first paid athlete in the football world. John Brallier was the first player to be paid for his participation in a football game, receiving ten dollars for one game. The popularity of the sport grew in the years that followed.

Today, millions of people both play and watch the sport. ESPN suggests that the median age for professional players of the sport is 26 years of age. This doesn’t become an issue until the players start younger. When searching ‘what age to start playing football’ the first result from Linkedin, recommends that children start between the ages of three to five. Kids between the ages of three to five are unlikely to know how to read or write. They are still growing, meaning if a bone is broken during this period of their lives then it might affect a growth plate that could cause future pain. In addition to the likelihood of physical injury, the children playing are not old enough to make a decision based on their own preference.

Football players are at high risk of concussion. Concussions happen when a player's brain bounces against their skull. In severe enough concussions, brain cells can be destroyed. Symptoms present with concussions are usually headaches, nausea, confusion, loss of consciousness, and sometimes seizures. For players affected by concussions, loss of valuable class time due to the injury has the potential to negatively alter their academic performance. In some cases, continued poor academic performance can result in being cut from the football team.

Although football players are required to wear certain approved equipment, it is not as protective as it seems. The football helmet can prevent some types of head injury, but not necessarily concussions. Football helmets have to be fitted to each player to reduce the risk of severe head injury. In reality, many players on high school levels do not have the funding or time to fit each player individually. This can lead to a higher chance of brain injury.

CTE is a neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated head trauma. CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, affects the brain and is similar to dementia. It has symptoms such as paranoia, memory loss, irritability, and confusion. Signs of this illness can show at any time in a person’s life but tend to become present in their thirties, forties, and fifties. Because of the tendency to be hit by others, the majority of people suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy are football players. This means that the earlier in life a person begins playing football and the longer they play the sport for, the more likely they are to develop the condition. CTE can only be truly diagnosed by looking at a suspected sufferer’s brain after death.

Along with the risk of head injury, football players also run the risk of other sports-related injuries. Football is the cause of 215,000 emergency room visits according to a Sanford Children’s Health study. The uniforms worn by players do have padding in them, but there is room for improvement. There is not much protection for players’ necks, arms, or legs. These places are also more prone to injury than others.

The sport, football, is very popular in the United States due to its origin. Its popularity means millions both play and watch the sport yearly. Although it is well known, its side effects are not. Lack of funding, risk of concussions, and variety of age groups participating in the sport drastically increase the likelihood of long term and short term injury. For those who play long term, the possibility is ever more present. Football might be popular, but it is not the safest sport out there.