Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Will football go the way of boxing?

Football is insanely popular. It's America's top sport.

But boxing was popular once too. It peaked in the middle of the 20th century, but now it's insignificant. Even back then it was hard to ignore what happened to boxers. Mohammed Ali was the last straw.

Within twenty years, if the game doesn't change, football (that is, American football -- not "soccer") will go too ...
10 amazing truths you already suspected / Go ahead, pretend you didn't know. Pretend it wasn't obvious. (Volume II!)
... Witness Malcolm Gladwell's half-stunning, half-obvious piece in a recent New Yorker, summed up thusly: nearly every football player in America, from high school on up through the NFL -- especially there -- will suffer some level of brain damage and head trauma, from moderate to severe to early-onset dementia, even after just a year or two of play, even if he never turns pro at all...
Parents will start to discourage kids from playing high school football, and those with money will withdraw financial support for the high school game. Colleges will be successfully sued -- after all, they can hardly claim to be uninformed and they have a special responsibility to their students.

The game will have to be radically revised to lower the amount of head trauma involved.


chrismealy said...

I'm with you. I recently asked my trainer (an old semipro veteren, with the permanent injuries to show for it) how he thought football could change in light of the recent evidence. He didn't think it could. I told him, "So it'll just be human sacrifice then?" He said, "Yeah."

I think rugby or field hockey might catch on.

Craig said...

One of the ways football could be made safer, paradoxically, would be to take away all the body armor. Of course, you couldn't play the game in the same way any more, but that's rather the point. Boxing leads to brain damage because the gloves allow boxers to pummel each other's heads over and over again, replacing acute injuries with chronic; many other combat sports avoid this by simply making the parade of headshots impossible. Football-like games are played around the world, generally without anything like the full American panoply. I doubt many of them lead to as much brain damage as our particular strain.