All athletic activities – but high-impact sports, in particular – carry a risk of severe injury during a game. None quite reach the same level of danger as American Football… except perhaps rugby.
A sport where strength and muscle is championed in a gladiatorial manner, it’s hardly surprising that during an American Football game – like the Roman stadiums of old – not everyone leaves the arena in one piece.
But the “big hits” on the pitch have made American Football the multibillion dollar cash cow it is today. Even as early as high school, the most popular teens are encouraged to take up the ball and grapple in the stadium. But recently, there have been calls to protect players from the worst of the potential damage – head injuries.
Cry-Out from Players
Hundreds of former National Football League (NFL) players have been complaining of football-related brain injuries from heavy hits. Due to the constant wipe-outs, it’s thought many players are suffering from a degenerative mental condition caused by ‘mild subconcussive impacts.’ The routine hits players take on the pitch could directly lead to disability, or even death.
Campaign of Disinformation
In an almost Orwellian attempt at covering up the worst of the claims, the NFL was exposed as having conducted a ‘campaign of disinformation.’ The NFL says that such a campaign never existed and that players share responsibility, when they sign their employment terms, for any negative impact on their health.
The question on everyone’s lips is: ‘did the NFL know the risks of cognitive degeneration in American Football?’ And perhaps even more importantly…is the NFL liable for not doing anything about it?
What Can Be Done to Reduce the Risks of Brain Injury?
As we speak, the NFL is considering some new proposals. One of the latest amendments to the game is penalisation of tacklers and ball-carriers who lower their heads to crack helmets together. Concussions are commonplace in American Football, and making small changes could considerably help protect mental health.
Safer equipment and immediate medical treatment are needed to protect players. A helmet has been developed that measures the force of impact to the head during the game. When the force becomes dangerous, players can be removed from the stadium for medical analysis.
Although changes to the way we handle American Football safety won’t help the unfortunates who’re suffering from brain injuries now, there’s no reason why we should ignore future players and protect them from early in their careers, until they retire. Amongst all the head injury compensation claims, we should start listening to players’ concerns.
It’s true that such high-impact sports can never guarantee brain and body protection during games. But just because our 21st century gladiators take big hits in the stadium of their free will, it doesn’t mean that we should neglect our duty of care.
There are worries that American Football will follow Boxing, which became unpopular after brain injury concerns tamed the sport. But surely, the health of our players is a higher priority.