OT: Junior Seau suffered CTE, is football too dangerous?

Submitted by ak47 on January 10th, 2013 at 11:10 PM

So CTE is chronic brain damage and can be caused by repeated blows to the head as small as what a typical OL or DLinmen go through on every play.  I ask this because the typical argument is that these guys are getting paid millions of dollars and are making a decision.  I have two problems with this argument: 1) This sort of damage is accumulated over a lifetime, plenty of youth football players could easily be permanently damaging their brains with no real knowledge of the dangers and we probably never hear about their health issues. 2) Football is borderline exploitive.  The number of professional football players from disadvantaged backgrounds is disproportianetly high.  For a lot of these players something like football is the only way out of a bad neighberhood. The choice between a potentially short life in poverty where statistics say there is a greater than 50% you are  going to be dead or in jail by 50 or football where you could damage your brain for life by 35 does not seem like a legitimate choice.

I'm not sure how I feel about football right now but I know the billions of dollars it generates is going to keep players futrue health low on the priority list.  The board seemed kind of slow and I thought this could be a legitimate discussion. If people don't think so I apologize.



January 11th, 2013 at 1:07 AM ^

In the 3 years I've been coming here. The OP has some great points. As do others. Let's be honest, do we really need extensive research to realize young children ramming their heads together isn't good for their brain? If you think so you're lying to yourself. The schools and leagues these kids play for aren't sitting them down and illustrating the possible and logical long-term effects of football. If they did my guess is a lot less kids wouldn't play. In order for the sport to be sustainable it needs to become far less violent. Taking the face masks off is worthy of exploring. If that doesn't all but eliminate the horrendous effects of taking shots to the dome then it's time to make it two hand touch. I know that sounds "effeminate", but call me crazy I'd rather not see human beings suffer. Even if they choose to play and are lucky enough to make millions of dollars from it. It's still completely unnecessary for them to do that to their bodies.


January 11th, 2013 at 1:20 AM ^

ive coached youth football the last 4 years.   Safety and concussions are a huge thing.  if a player gets a headache, they're to be removed from the field and have to be cleared by a doctor before they can return. 

  Honestly i think more serious injuries occur because players dont know how to give or take a hit.  At the gradeschool level there are more booboos than there are head injuries.  Learning proper form early while the head injury rate is low is the way start.  The last thing I would want is for my sons first year of football to be in Jr High or High School.  Its too late to learn and IMO there's a larger opportunity for serious injuries.


January 11th, 2013 at 1:58 AM ^

Concussions aren't the only sign damage has been done to the brain. That's great y'all take kids out, but that still isn't addressing the issue. You take kids out AFTER they get injured. Great, you should do that. However, if they were properly educated about the dangers they'd never have concussions. We can't expect 8-10 year old kids to comprehend this.


January 11th, 2013 at 2:20 AM ^

to you, but nobody would watch football if it was two hand touch. The game would cease to exist at that point. Even though I will say that the NFL is moving closer and closer to  a seven on seven drill with the rule changes, which  is one the reasons why I could not care less about the NFL anymore. If people weren't aware of the risks in the past, they should sigficantly more aware with stories such as this popping up. I agree that kids and their parents need to truely understand the risks and maybe that should be the primary focus moving forward, but past that it is just like any other activity that involves risk, the person accepts the risk when they engage in said activity. Who are we to tell football players what they can and can't do with their own bodies, particurly when the compensation is so generous compared to an ordinary job?


January 11th, 2013 at 1:32 AM ^

I'm sorry, you're getting paid millions of dollars to play a pro sport. If you think it will cause harm, give up the paycheck, and get a day job.

What would they rather have, 45 years of being a millionaire and everyone knowing who you are or 90 years of only your family caring when you die?

My bet is the former every time.


January 11th, 2013 at 2:11 AM ^

Everyone may know who you are as an NFL player, but nobody really cares.  If Tom Brady started sucking, do you think anyone would give two shits about him?  Nope. Would fans come to his funeral? Nope.  Personally, I'd take the latter every single time.  I have never cared about an NFL death for more than about 2 days.


January 11th, 2013 at 2:47 AM ^

Very true, although I think you could argue that crashing into a wall is such an obvious risk of racing that any driver entering NASCAR is completely aware of that possibility.  Can the same be said of football?  I'm not so sure.  Given that doctors are still trying to sort this out, how much can a high school kid really know about the serious dangers of head injuries?  Imo, it's all about protecting against unforseen risk. 

Sure, kids could opt of playing, but tell that to Boobie Miles.  Poor Boobie.


January 11th, 2013 at 2:07 AM ^

Football by design is a collision. There is no way to structure it that is going to completely eliminate head trauma. You can land on your head making an acrobatic catch or diving for a pylon. You can get pancake blocked and have your head bounce off the turf. All it takes is one hit to get a concussion, which could be all it takes for permanent brain damage. There's nothing you can do to prevent head trauma in a game that involves 300lb men going in opposite directions as a collective battering ram. I've had my bell rung plenty of times playing in rec center flag football leagues. And I remember getting my bell rung playing some dumb HS gym class football game they called Flick-a-ball. People running at full speed in opposite directions inside of a chalked off box of boundaries will run into each other no matter what. You can't make airbags or seatbelts safe enough to make collisions safe, and you can't design a helmet that will make collisions safe for your brain. You could have a fathead sized helmet full of pillows, and if you run full speed into someone else running full speed ... your brain will vibrate and shift inside of your skull.


January 11th, 2013 at 3:04 AM ^

ak47- you have repeatedly commented that you are not proposing a ban of football.  What are you proposing?

I mean, I completely respect a parent's decision to not allow a kid to play football because of the risks.  I also respect a parent who won't allow a kid to drive until he is 18 because of the risks.  I also respect a parent's decision to allow neither or both.

Would you simply tell a parent that is unaware of the risks that their child shouldn't play?  Or would you tell them about the risks of which they are unaware and let them make their own choice?

I feel like the only thing you are proposing is that we all feel bad about liking football.


January 11th, 2013 at 4:24 AM ^

People in this country have many opportunities and are free to choose their lifestyles and professions and work and play.  The data needs to be presented, the facts laid out in front of everyone, and then parents and young adults are free to choose whether to play football or soccer (collisions with no protection whatsoever) or ride a motorcycle or whatever.  They pay the price of their decisions and suffer both the consequences and reap the benefits. 

We need to allow them to choose what they wish to do, and then accept their choices as their individual weighing of the pluses and minuses for them.  That goes for whether they want to play professional football or college football or high school football or like Taylor Lewan, to stay in college for another year, or like Darius Morris, to leave for pro basketball "early", or Barry Sanders to retire "early".  Everyone needs to stop telling others how to make their own individual value judgements on such things, especially in sports. 


January 11th, 2013 at 6:32 AM ^

As OP stated it is a tough call. On one hand, the players know the dangers and few jobs pay millions to play a game that comes naturally to some with no other skills. On the other hand, I don't think anyone can honestly say that football injuries are higher than other physical/collision sports like Rugby, etc. I LOVE hard nosed football. I hate the way we baby QBs now. I hate how defenders have to worry about if their tackle will be illegal if the offender lowers his head at the last second, etc. Yet, I also won't completely throw out the tossed about suggestions of replacing KOs with punts (equal LOS issue, lowering odds of car wreck hits), removing facemask size to enforce clean tackles, etc. Ultimately, I have end this by admitting that most players who suffer head injuries do it to themselves by their style of play (defensive mostly). The guys that play with their hair on fire tend to suffer more than those that play hard but with fundamental tackling and such. It's a job. They know the risk as well as the game and pay. It's an issue with no answer that doesn't hurt the game.


January 11th, 2013 at 9:47 AM ^

Can't edit through app but meant to say football clearly has higher rates of head injury than other collision sports like rugby, etc. Amazing given most wear no protection on the head. I know it's a different type of collision sport but I've seen some rugby KO shots! Plus the scrums, accidents, etc.

Ball Hawk

January 11th, 2013 at 7:19 AM ^

The unforeseen dangers of football are just coming into light recently. The problem is that every block and every tackle you get up at the end of the play and you feel fine. You dont realize that over a period of time that your brain is being injured with any symptoms. If you have been playing football for a while and someone came up to you and told you that you should stop playing football cuz your injuring your brain every play, you wouldnt really take them serious because you feel fine.


January 11th, 2013 at 7:28 AM ^

I would be interested to see if anyone has done comparisons to rugby. They definitely have different rules and not exactly the same typical collisions (forward pass and exposed receivers an all) but the scrums and basic tackling are the same. Wondering if they are seeing the same thing with long term and retired players. It is possible Lou Holtzzzz comment about removing facemasks might be on to something.


January 11th, 2013 at 7:38 AM ^

This is a through the grapevine/rumor mill statement, but I've heard rugby does not have these long term effects because there is not repeated head on collisions. No helmet makes players more cautious of cracking skills


January 11th, 2013 at 9:59 AM ^

I have played rugby and this is absolutely true. For two reasons:

1) we knew we had no protection and did not put ourselves at risk and;

2) there are rules in the game about tackling. Every tackle you make has to be below the shoulders and you must wrap up on the tackle. Wrapping up prevented a lot of violent collisions and forced proper form.


January 11th, 2013 at 7:56 AM ^

I don't think that it's exploitative like you are trying to make it sound.  People from poverty may be better at football for whatever reason, but it isn't like only poor people with no other options in life would be willing to play in the NFL, like child sweatshops are in third world countries.  Plenty of people from all different backgrounds love football and would kill to play in the NFL, despite the risks. 

Plus, if football is an option for poeple in dangerous neighborhoods to avoid gangs/violence, like Denard said it was for him, how is taking it away protecting them?  Doesn't less time playing football and practicing mean more time getting pressured into joining gangs, selling drugs, whatever?  A lot of players say that football kept them away from that life; I don't see how taking football away from them would be helpful.

His Dudeness

January 11th, 2013 at 9:19 AM ^

If people want to do something that is risky and they are perfectly able to weigh the risk vs. reward for themselves then that is their choice. I would never take away the freedom of choice from any body. No polo, but that is what I believe America is all about.  


January 11th, 2013 at 9:55 AM ^

People can't assess risk and reward effectively over long stretches of the future, even when they know what the risks are. I don't think it is commonly understood that CTE is a result of "everyday" football risk (vs. concussions), and even if they did - people act impulsively all the time, allowing their short-term selves to get the advantage of what they KNOW to be their long-term best interests.

If you were ever broke before the end of the month

If you ever ended the holiday season with a belly fully of cookies and no way to fit into your clothes

If you ever heard "honey I'm pregnant" when you hadn't been expecting to

There you have it


January 11th, 2013 at 10:10 AM ^

Driving my car on the highway

Flying in an airplane

Snowboard half pipe



Big wave surfing


Cheer leading


Working at a metal stamping plant

Linemen for a utility company


Crab boat fishermen

Platform diving

I'll think of more but I'm driving while typing this.


January 11th, 2013 at 11:42 AM ^

I disagree.  People DO know the risks of football.  The news of it is everywhere.  Reports of players committing suicide, living with Alzheimers, depression, and general forgetfullness are on tv or online almost every week.  They know more now than they did 5 - 10 - 20 -years ago. 

Trust me, I played football through college, I coach high school football, my son played and was taking off in an ambulance from a blind side hit.   He also approached me with the idea of walking on in college and I DISSUADED HIM.  

But  in spite of all that, it's still a game that people should be allowed to choose to play.  I don't know how many living NFL and college football alumni there are in the world, but I'm guessing the overwhelming majority are living a normal, healthy life.

Nosce Te Ipsum

January 11th, 2013 at 12:28 PM ^

You really think that all of these parents and kids know about the long term effects of playing football? Nothing could happen and they could live normal happy lives or they may find themselves living the opposite of that. It's a risk and they can make that choice if they want to. I wasn't afforded the opportunity to make a choice given this kind of information ( I am still considered young too) and I would be interested to know what percentage of current middle and high school football teams give the parents and players this information before they decide to play. For some, that's the only way they'll receive knowledge on the subject. 


January 11th, 2013 at 11:53 AM ^

You're missing the point.

ak47 never said banning football is the answer. He meant that he thinks there should be more rules and regulations into attempting to make it a safer sport.

Adding to that, added awareness and information of the dangers of prolonged play such as CTE should be given to parents of kids signing their kids up for Pop Warner. The only problem is, the research is so new and ongoing that most people don't know more than the basic "oh well it's a contact sport, there's going to be the usual cuts and bruises and maybe if he's unlucky something a bit worse" physical damage. The mental health/damage complications should be talked about more.


January 11th, 2013 at 11:55 AM ^

Have you watched a Pop Warner game?  If there helmets and shoulder pads were mae of eggshells, they don't generate enough force to break them.  They also have weight limits to protect the smaller kids from the bigger ones (clearly something they LEARNED over the years).  High School Sports is when you start to separate the athletes and it's when you start to see big licks.  And yet, of the millions of kids currently playing high school football - all of whom are aware of the inherent dangers, I'm sure - there will be MAYBE 100 severe head/neck injuries this year. 

High Schools are beginning to implement IMPACT testing and requiring players to take a baseline test before the season starts.  Again, this is something we've LEARNED to do.

Do we know everything there is to know about concussions and head/neck injuries resulting from football?  Nope.  But like every other affliction, we are learning more and more each day. 

Finally:  ,ore rules and regulations?  The only thing that will change the dynamics of the game are to either remove helmets (a la Rugby*) or put flags on the players.

*I wonder if long-retired Rugby players are experiencing the same post-career neurological iissues as NFL players.


January 11th, 2013 at 12:05 PM ^

It doesn't necessarily happen from big hits. It's everyday plays that do the most damage. On any given snap, linemen are bumping heads. Those do more damage than the occasional guy getting laid out by a safety. The little hits here and there that people don't report or really think twice about are the one's that do the damage. Most players that get "dinged" don't report it, or maybe sit out a play or two just to gather themselves. 

I agree, the weight limits are a good start. It's a good step to making the game safer. 

When you say that there's maybe 100 severe head/neck injuries a year -- which is, in my opinion, too low of a guess -- you're talking about physical injuries. Yes, everyone who has done any kind of sport knows that there is a risk of physical injury. It's the mental damage that is not apparent which is the bigger, less-known danger. The studies are new and, while they've been talked about a lot in the media, many people don't think they're at risk for whatever reason (not in the NFL, don't get hit hard, wear a good helmet...)


Rugby doesn't have the same neurological issues. The rules are strict about tackling. Only from the shoulders down. They don't lead with their head, obviously, since they aren't wearing any protection. It's much more fundamental than what football has become


January 11th, 2013 at 12:24 PM ^

If, as you claim, the normal collision of helmets that occur at the snap of the ball are the root cause of these severe instances of head trauma, then there's no answer other than to stop the game of football.  You simply cannot play the game without linemen blocking linemen at the snap of the ball.

Personally, I disagree with your statement.


January 11th, 2013 at 12:33 PM ^

I...uh...shit. Well I backed myself into a corner. 

Reading what I was saying earlier, yes the logical conclusion is in fact to eliminate football. Which is not the point I was trying to make. I just got off track completely. 

My english/argumentative skills need work. I also need to research this a bit more. Sorry for dragging you into an argument where we both have the same basic agreement. 


January 11th, 2013 at 1:11 PM ^

When Vince Lombardi "let the genie out of the bottle" and became the first head coach with a mandatory weightlifting program, it was downhill from there.  Players are bigger, stronger, faster, have spikes that give them insane amounts of leverage, and have equipment that gives the illusion of impunity, but merely allows them to be damaged in a way that doesn't show up til years after they have finished playing.

I would like to see spikeless shoes,soft pads, and leather helmets with no facemasks.  Modern equipment allows players to generate too much force, and that force seems to be "funnelled" into the inside of the cranium, as the brain crashes against the inside of the skull.

Or, they can just play 7-on-7 passing camp football.