Football causes brain damage and dementia—that’s the uncomfortable conclusion of an increasing body of research. Former pro players in their 40s, household names not long ago, are getting lost in their own neighborhoods and contemplating suicide, symptoms more commonly seen in Alzheimer's patients in their 80s. At congressional hearings this week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell fielded tough questions about the league’s future. Is it appropriate for politicians to discuss radically rewriting the rules of football—or even banning the sport—to protect player health? (Watch NFL commissioner Roger Goodell get grilled by members of the Judiciary Committee)
Brain injuries? Who cares? Sure, players get concussions that can lead to dementia, “but I really don’t care,” says Dan Levy at The Washington Post, especially when players are still declining to wear helmets with anti-concussion protection. “[Taking risks] is part of the job description. It's just like I don't care when a court stenographer gets carpal tunnel syndrome.”
“Call me an NFL rubbernecker”
Dogfighting is banned—maybe football should be, too: There are disturbing similarities between the two spectacles, says Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker. Dogfighting, widely accepted in the 19th century, is objectionable because it necessarily ends in the “suffering and destruction” of the canine participants, solely “for the entertainment of an audience.” Given the horrific brain damage facing NFL players, is football really so different?
The NFL is being blinded by greed: The NFL is an $8 billion organization that has failed in its responsibility, says Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), quoted in The New York Times. “Players are always going to get injured. The only question [for the NFL] is, are you going to pay for it? I know that you dearly want to hold on to your profits. I think it’s the responsibility of Congress to look at your antitrust exemption and take it away.”
“Goodell defends NFL’s handling of head injuries”
The dangers are even worse in high school football: Pro football is a multibillion-dollar industry with lots of oversight, says Buzz Bissinger in The Daily Beast. The real horror is that at the youth level concussions are more likely to be dismissed as a mere headache. Parents have to stop implying that their sons and daughters “are weaklings if they complain."
"Football's bloodiest secret"
For The Week's in-depth briefing on "Football's Wounded Gladiators," click here.