With the National Football League preseason winding down and regular season right around the corner, it’s almost impossible not to talk football. According to Sports Illustrated, football is one of the most-watched phenomena on TV in the fall season. This American pastime rakes in an average of 20.75 million viewers.
Yet with all this fame, it’s important to point out a serious issue in the NFL: concussions.
Football fans often say that players know what they are getting into when they sign onto a team, but this is not necessarily true. According to PBS, the NFL reported 271 concussions from practices, preseason and regular games this season, but only 197 of those injuries ever appeared on a team injury report. It appears that there are efforts carried out by the NFL to cover up the true magnitude of concussions. Ultimately, this could inhibit players from receiving the help they need post-concussion.
The NFL just settled for up to $5 million per each player who has been found with long term brain injuries, as stated by The New York Times. This settlement stemmed from a scandal in which the NFL was accused of majorly downplaying football’s effect on the brain. The NFL created their own committee of doctors, led by a rheumatologist. This committee did several studies, concluding that football was completely harmless to the brain. The players were told that the sport was benign concerning players’ heads, and all was well until veteran football player Mike Webster was diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.
It’s hard to ignore the obvious problem of head injuries in football. Someone bangs their head almost every play, and that could mean major health problems later in life. We cannot allow the NFL` to continue operating this way while neglecting to face this problem head on.
Sources such as The New York Times have compared the NFL to the big tobacco companies. The two entities have similarities in their desires to cover up major health issues. The NFL, just like many big businesses, seems to be more concerned with making big bucks rather than with preserving players’ health.
All in all, it’s someone’s brain. Fortunately, thanks to the movie “Concussion,” the NFL has acknowledged the rising problem in brain injuries. Many still argue that we aren’t doing enough. If we were to give a metaphor, the big hits in the game of football, “[are] still the equivalent of being hit in the head by a 10-pound cannonball traveling at 30 miles per hour,” according to Mark Fainaru-Wada, co-author of League of Denial. If I think about how many “big hits” a player takes in a game, I cringe at that concept.
Hopefully, in seasons to come more attention will be given to brain injuries in football, with player safety at the forefront of the game.
Emily Fox studies neuroscience. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.