Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thoughts on injuries in tackle football.

At this point, it’s not difficult to see an end to tackle ball at every level down the road if we are left holding the bag for those who decide to play this game.

I played football.  Little league from age 8 through my junior year of high school  (Was in the Army my senior year) 2 years of Air Force ball for Rhein Main AFB, 2 years for 8th AG Company… one spring practice for the Huskies before I got orders to Saudi Arabia.

All together, something on the order of 12 seasons or so of tackle ball.  I was an offensive lineman for the most part… did a Refrigerator Perry imitation a few times as a running back.

A lot of contact.  A lot of head shots.  Concussions… knocked unconscious playing ball and various stunts in the military.  

A few weeks ago, I watched a TV special (League of Denial) that addressed the issue of brain damage of NFL players.  Apparently, for many who played to that level, one of the problems is the formation of a protein with the acronym of TAU in the brains of not only professional players… but based on the information provided, possibly down to the High School level.

So, the question becomes this: what can be done about it?

A lot.  But none of it’s cheap.

One possibility is to double the size of football teams and put a limit on how much players can play.

Correspondingly, the length of the games can be cut in half.

Oh, my God, how the fans would scream.

But the question here is this: it’s reasonably well known what causes this damage.  What effort(s) are the interested parties taking when it comes to solving that problem?

Last weekend, for example, the NFL’s emphasis… its bandage approach to fixing this… (Helmet to helmet contact penalties, defenseless receiver penalties and that sort of thing) resulted in players whose skills are worth millions getting crippled through torn ACL’s, LCL’s, MCL’s and the like.

So, one set of crippling injury… head injury… is allegedly decreased in favor of another form of crippling injury… various torn ligaments.

“Can’t hit high…. Got to hit low.”

That, of course, is not a solution.

The solution rests with reducing exposure to the possibility of head-to-head contact.  

I don’t know if I have the TAU issue or not.  (Political adversaries would naturally claim it to be the case) It may not become an issue right now… it may be one later or not at all.

But the sport that I loved has wrecked my ankles and my knees… repeatedly sprained both ankles,  broken my wrists and all of my fingers at least once; screwed up my neck, though it’s been symptom free for the most part for many years.… and I am likely to require at least one knee replacement relatively soon as a result of playing.

I wouldn’t change a thing, myself.  But then, I was never paid a dime to play.  For me, it was actually the love of the game. 

But are these types of questions to be left in the hands of those who suffer the injuries at the expense of everyone else?

Some football players… millionaires… are still collecting labor and industry payments for the injuries they suffered.


How could you make it to that level and not know in advance that injuries weren't a part of the game?  

How long do the taxpayers have to subsidize the results of their individual choices?  Where does individual responsibility end and society's responsibility begin?

There must be a reorganization of football, likely at all levels.  If we, as a society, are to bear the burdens/costs of playing a game, not to mention the burdens the players themselves face… then we, as a society, should have the right to dictate the terms of that decision.

I’ve put forward two ideas.  They are but a start of another discussion.  They aren’t the be all to end all… others may have better ideas that will significantly alter the damage the players sustain.   

Players are getting much bigger, faster and stronger.  But brains, skulls and ligaments aren't.  Fixes must be found... or it could be the end as more and more parents are keeping their kids out of the game... and more players are crippled neurologically and physically.

No comments: