I learned something heartbreaking this weekend. Despite thinking that I had raised her right, my daughter came right out and told me the horrible truth: she likes to watch football. She appreciates the strategy, she says. I tried to explain that it’s so boring, that it’s brief flurries of burly men bashing each other in between long sessions of inane “color commentary”, but she would have none of it. She’s too far gone.
And now I discover that Rebecca Watson is also a fan! What is this? A whole generation of young women corrupted?But at least she has a good argument against football.
The paper she cites is damning.
Public schools should end their football programs because of the high prevalence of concussions. Five to twenty percent of students experience at least one concussion in a season of play. Nine to twelve year old players experience an average of 240 head impacts per season; high school players average 650 head impacts per season. An initial football concussion increases the risk of a subsequent concussion three or four fold not simply for the balance of that season but for the following season as well. Catastrophic brain injuries, though rare, are far more common in high school and college players who have experienced a previous non-catastrophic concussion. The brains of children are more susceptible to long-term damage from concussion than adults. Although the frequency of concussion in football is about the same as in hockey, fifty times as many students play football than hockey; football causes far more brain injuries. The brain is an irreplaceable organ, the health of which is foundational for the ability to learn, socialize and for fully realizing life’s physical and vocational opportunities.
Time for the slippery slope game. If we’re going to end football programs for kids under 18, why are we going to support college football? That should go, too. And if we kill college football, there goes the farm that raises brain-damaged blocks of meat to batter each other in professional football. And if pro football dies, Texas will secede from the union!
And hey, this is true heresy around Minnesota, that fewer players play hockey is not an excuse to tolerate an equally brain-damaging sport. We’ll tear the country apart.
So, clearly, thousands of children with cognitive dysfunction, neuron injury, and lifelong cognitive impairment are a small price to pay.
…school football concussions are often followed by weeks of impaired school academic performance, memory disturbances, headaches and absenteeism. High school cheerleaders have impaired cognition for at least days after a single concussion even when claiming to be asymptomatic. Cognitive dysfunction or neuron injury occurs after repetitive mild to moderate athletic concussions; catastrophic injuries or instances of prolonged loss of consciousness are not required to cause such harm. Even when measured cognition returns to baseline, symptoms of concussion often persist. A season of collegiate play leads to persistent cognitive dysfunction that is roughly proportional to the magnitude of head impact. One study shows that greater later-life cognitive impairment in NFL players is correlated with exposure to competitive football before twelve years of age. Evidence about the effect of youth football is evolving but is sufficient to show that school football is likely to adversely affecting school performance in the short term and may, if the trauma is not stopped, may proceed to permanent cognitive dysfunction over the long term.