Safety (or lack thereof) in Football

Submitted by MGoBender on January 28th, 2013 at 10:06 PM

(I actually thought a recent topic had something worth discussing, however, the OP included something banned on these boards... Let's try this again).

A certain prominent public figure recent spoke about the future of football.

The Raven's Bernard Pollard said recently that he does not believe the NFL will exist in 30 years.

I have a few questions for discussion:

1. Would you feel OK about your son (real or theoretical) playing football? To what degree?

2. To what extent do you believe football can survive, as is?

3. What would you do to try to save the sport?


My responses:

1. I would discourage my theoretical son from playing football. While at the end of the day, it would be his choice, I'd encourage soccer or fall-ball baseball for an autumn sport. If he chose to play football, I would be a pretty worried person everyday.


2. Every year something changes and I don't think that will stop any time soon. So, no I think 10-15 years from now the game will be different.


3. I'd make hitting illegal.  If you do not attempt to wrap up with your arms and instead launch your body (whether you make contact with your shoulder or helmet), it would be a personal foul. 2 of them and you're ejected. 

Yeah, big hits are exciting. But how often do we lament the player going for the big hit and failing to bring down the ball carrier? I think we can eliminate hitting without taking too much away from the game.


swan flu

January 28th, 2013 at 10:13 PM ^

These type of topic always make me feel a bit silly because I think everyone posting is much more concerned with letting others know their opinions rather than listening to others. But hey, I'm a cynical ass hole. Anyway...

1) as a kicker. My wife and I are each below 5'5" so my answer here is moot.
2) as long as there's money there it will be successful as is. The players will continue to play because athletes have an invincibility complex when they are young and healthy.
3) I can't honestly think of anything that would make the game "safe" and keep me as interested in it as I am now.


January 29th, 2013 at 3:43 AM ^

I don't know what you apologized for; you're right. Football is a gladiator sport. There will always be money in that, and the top football players will continue to see themselves as the best or potential best because that is what it takes to succeed.

If you don't think you can wreck your opponent, you will lose. That is how football works. Sure rules change, but the key to football will always be destroying the guy across from you. If that changes, then we may as well call it synchronized dancing... or professional shlong stroking.

Generic MGoBlogger

January 28th, 2013 at 10:14 PM ^

Advocate of soccer here.  As much as I love football, this kind of stuff is what soccer needs to gain popularity here. But I can't really say I'm happy with the price payed, though. I need football.

Section 1

January 28th, 2013 at 10:17 PM ^


We are hearing about a lot of alarming stories coming out of the NFL.  Almost invariably, players with many years' experience in the NFL.  To be sure, these are anecdotal bits of evidence.  There needs to be much more study, to address any real epidemiological questions.  And as always, not matter what an autopsy might have found in a gross and microscopic examination of Junior Seau's brain, it is not terribly close to being a proximate cause of death -- the guy tried to commit suicide previously (although denied at the time), and should have been under care thereafter.  Not sure if he was or wasn't or why not.

But in any event, I am not hearing those stories in the collegiate ranks.  There may in fact be some instances (again, anecdotal) in collegiate football.  But, uh, I don't quite know how to suggest this but... I haven't heard of any rash of "stories" about college football players being left forlorn "with nothing to fall back on" as a result of repetitive concussive syndromes.

Not bad, eh?

Board; commence freakout.

swan flu

January 28th, 2013 at 10:27 PM ^…

That article references a study published in a peer-reviewed medical journal that concluded that contact sports (specifically football) create a distinct and predictable pattern of CTE.

Now if you call a peer reviewed medical journal anecdotal evidence then I got two words for ya.

Section 1

January 28th, 2013 at 10:37 PM ^

"[Dr. Stern] cautioned the condition would not develop in all athletes and suggested that concerns about CTE should not prompt parents of young players to pull their children from the sport..." 


Well, gosh we need to have a word with those folks who are saying that if they had sons, they might pull them from the sport of football, don't we?


swan flu

January 28th, 2013 at 10:44 PM ^

Well aren't you just the king of straw men.

I never said this study means parents should keep their kids out of football. I simply provided a piece of actual evidence linking football and CTE. I don't give a shit what you do with your kids and neither do the doctors who conducted this study. The difference between lay people and scientists is that scientists know about the dangers of overextending the conclusions they make, and, thus, don't make blanket statements as the conclusions of their hard work.


January 28th, 2013 at 11:28 PM ^

why do you come here?  I mean do you get any enjoyment at all about argueing with different posters all the time?  Or are you such a miserable cunt that this is just your thing and you actually enjoy arguing with people all day?

pathetic either way.



January 28th, 2013 at 10:27 PM ^

I wonder if there are playing-career ending concussions in the collegiate game, but they just don't make as big of headlines.

Perhaps the difference in player speed and size at the next level is the tipping point? Good questions that probably don't have provable answers.

I Like Burgers

January 28th, 2013 at 10:36 PM ^

While Jahvid Best's concussions in college didn't end his career at Cal, they were enough to cut short his junior year and raise a bunch of red flags about how long he'd last in the NFL with those issues.  The people questioning it, wound up being right.  Dude made it one season in the NFL and is now done at the age of 23 because of serious head problems that started in college.  God knows what kind of shitty life he'll have as a result.


January 28th, 2013 at 10:36 PM ^

There are likely tons of examples, but the quickest one I can think of in ones reported up here in the Twin Cities. Jimmy Gjere, a ESPN 150 commit to MN in 2010, retired from football last fall because of repeated concussions. He was 6'8", 325 pounds, and a redshirt freshman.

You might also remember one Mike Williams from Michigan. MGoBlog is a big fan of the guy. His career ended because of the ole concussion issue.

Same with Steven Threet.

Those are the first three who come to mind.


Section 1

January 28th, 2013 at 10:41 PM ^

Modern concussion protocols might well demand that players end their exposure to football.  Nobody -- at least not me -- will argue with that. 

But were those guys left "without anything to fall back on"?  Are any of them disabled?  Did they all have a chance to earn degrees?

Michael From TC

January 29th, 2013 at 3:12 AM ^

football, along with hockey, rugby, and soccer are all sports that involve the inherent risk of repeted head contact. I understand the argument made against them, but these people choose to play the game, they are not being forced are gun point (at least not in this country)


1. Would you feel OK about your son (real or theoretical) playing football? To what degree?

I would encourage my son to play football all through high school. Having played through high school I know the invaluable lessons in teamwork, respect for the rules and of the community that supports you, and the comrodery I still share to this day with my high school teammates. There were much more life lessons beyond the glory on the field. I would very much encourage my son to partake in that.

2. To what extent do you believe football can survive, as is?

I'm not sure, I dont know enough about the lawsuits of the former players enough to pass judegment, but I think that if the league can institute a waiver that exempts them from responsibiltiy of injuries, the future of the league can go on. As of now, I dont think the public has much sympathy for guys that made tens of millions of dollars then end up having some head trauma and a life of pain because of the way they chose to make the fortuens they did. Will that discourage fans as much as the INSANE ticket prices? We shall see.


3. What would you do to try to save the sport?

I think the sport itself doesnt need "saving" per se. Football just needs a little better PR. All you hear about football is the off field issues and the trouble guys get into, you never hear about the Zoltan Mesko and the Victor Cruz, or even the Suh community outreach stories in the national news. That stuff doesnt sell papers, which is quite unfortunate. Other than that, I think the league is doing what it can.


January 28th, 2013 at 11:09 PM ^

Wait is that for me? On my iPhone can't tell.. Dude, I tried being civil with you but you constantly resort to childish responses to my posts. You're getting worked up over nothing. You've had about 30 posts today and i still don't understand what your concern/beef/issue is. Clearly state your point, read people's counterpoints, respect others opinions, defend your argument etc., but no need to be immature.

Section 1

January 28th, 2013 at 11:40 PM ^

And I am no more willing to predict that it will happen in any particular cohort of patients than I would be willing to deny that it will happen in any particular cohort.

Some of you guys think that I am arguing over the basic medicine behind CTE.  I'm not.  I am just saying that the news media's freakout over the anecdotal high-publicity cases involving NFL stars don't inform us in any way of any serious epidemiology regarding collegiate players who never played in the NFL.


January 29th, 2013 at 12:19 PM ^

This is a good point, actually, but you seem to be arguing it for the sake of stroking your ego. High profile events are often the only way to get people thinking about systemic problems. Yes, this sucks; I will lament this phenomenon with you. Meanwhile, I support dealing with this problem, regardless of how attention was brought to it.

Section 1

January 29th, 2013 at 2:23 PM ^

I think you misunderstand my point, and why I am trying to make it here.

I started another thread, a perfectly good one I thought, challenging a statement made by President Obama on the subject of CTE and college football.  It wasn't a political argument as I posed it.  It was a factual one; whether there had been many stories about collegiate players with CTE who were somehow left disabled and "with nothing to fall back on," to quote the President exactly.  And all I did was to ask if anybody thought that such stories were numerous enough to be alarming.

But because it was I who posed the question, and because "Obama" was one word in the question, it got shut down, with a bunch of MGoBoard members behaving badly.  (The new rule must be something more than just "no politics."  It must be no mention of anything political whatsoever no matter what.  Assuredly, it will be a flexible rule that will be observed in the breach when the topic is rah-rah Michigan and all that good stuff and when I am not the OP.  i.e., Obama shouts out to Denard; OKAY.  Obama challenged factually on assertion of CTE in college football; NOT OKAY.  The link to Obama/Denard on this Board is particularly funny because it was almost exactly one year prior to my thread being removed.  What a difference a year makes.)

I am not worried about mobilizing public support for CTE research.  People can do that if they want.  Nor am I denying CTE is a problem.  I never suggested such a thing.

All that I was trying to do was to use the statement by the President to highlight what I see as a big difference between the NFL and collegiate football.  I love college football, and I pretty much hate the NFL; so that much is personal to me.  Otherwise, I expressed no angle in the debate.

Monocle Smile

January 28th, 2013 at 11:31 PM ^

After defending you throughout the past regime, I can very confidently tell you to go screw yourself.

The folks on this board (well, most) have exactly one thing in common: enjoyment of Michigan sports. Other than that, a great deal of us probably hate each other. Being a member of a Michigan sports blog doesn't say anything about anyone as a person.

So no, you don't get to whine about prodding the sleeping dragon...and then doing it over and over again. The mods exhibit quality control over specific topics FOR A GODDAMN REASON, and all you did tonight was bitch and moan like a five-year-old about those restricted topics.


January 28th, 2013 at 11:11 PM ^

He really didn't look too hard. In October 2010, 17-year-old Nathan Stiles died hours after his high school homecoming football game, where he took a hit that would be the final straw in a series of subconcussive and concussive blows to the head for the high schooler. The CSTE diagnosed him with CTE, making him the youngest reported CTE case to date

Section 1

January 28th, 2013 at 11:26 PM ^

In any event, I am and have been aware of that case.  Nathan Stiles sadly became a kind of a poster child for a team's medical staff following proper concussion protocols.  Terribly sad for all concerned.  We must not let that happen at any level.  But Nathan was an acute, sudden death case.  While "CTE" might have been the correct diagnosis, we don't know what the future would have held for Nathan had he been given the proper treatment/precautions at the time.  In other words, Nathan's long-term outcome could never be determined within the class of long-term disability secondary to CTE.

Section 1

January 28th, 2013 at 11:03 PM ^

Hearing about Hoard's heart-wrenching story makes me wish that he never spent those 10 years in the NFL.  I sort of wish that he got a degree from Michigan and went into a stock brokerage, or pharmaceutical sales, or postgraduate physcial education, teaching, etc.

I really do hate the NFL. 

M Fanfare

January 28th, 2013 at 10:42 PM ^

It's tougher to dig up since college football isn't centralized like the NFL is and there is such a vast number of players compared to the NFL, but a few Google searches will turn up stories about college football players leaving the game due to concussions. My own half-assed search turned up cases in the last 6 or 7 years at Nebraska, Syracuse, two at Colorado, and one in high school.

Bando Calrissian

January 28th, 2013 at 11:10 PM ^

Let's also not forget what happened with Sam McGuffie under our program's watch.  He had, what, three concussions his freshman year, then all of the sudden started having problems with depression.  One can only hope that kid isn't on a segment of Outside the Lines in a decade or two facing the same issues Leroy Hoard is facing.

I'll also add Ron Johnson to the mix.  Probably top-5 all-time Michigan RB, graduated after the '68 season, and now lives in a home for people facing early-onset dementia.  He literally cannot remember his playing days.

These things happen.  And these things happen to our guys.

Section 1

January 28th, 2013 at 11:31 PM ^

Ron Johnson had 10 or 12 brain-bruising years in the NFL.  Ron's brother Alex, the great star for Cincinnati Reds and about eight other MLB teams, played a bunch of brain-rattling youth football too, if I am not mistaken.  I think Alex is okay.  Big difference between Alex and Ron is a career in MLB versus a career in the NFL.

Section 1

January 28th, 2013 at 11:36 PM ^

And I'd be the first to agree that that was the right decision for Williams, if U-M medical staff thought so.  But Mike Williams needn't have lost his scholarship.  And we clearly don't know if he has, or will have, CTE.  He obviously should not attempt to go into the NFL.  I don't think the Mike Williams case solves any of the propositions I was advancing.


January 28th, 2013 at 11:02 PM ^

Besides, the effects of brain injury may not be seen until years later.  It's not just NFL guys like Leroy Hoard who suffer later in life.  For guys who never go pro, there is indeed "nothing to fall back on." The NCAA doesn't provide health benefits for former players who suffer from the after-effects of football, like getting dementia in their 50s.

Section 1

January 29th, 2013 at 12:12 AM ^

"While we will never know the cause of Owen Thomas's depression and subsequent suicide, we are aware of and deeply concerned about the medical issues now being raised about football head injuries and will continue to work with the Ivy League and the medical community in addressing these issues," the University of Pennsylvania said in a statement. 

Nobody knows, and the CTE they found was "mild."  Sadly, depression and suicide afflicts without regard to age, gender, class... or even Ivy League football status.

Realize, as I have: jumping to conclusions about "CTE" will become standard operating procedure in these cases, at any level.