Slam. Screech. Crash! In a fraction of a second, worlds collide. Bodies of steel and flesh are thrown together as metal tears and airbags erupt, bubbles of protection in a sea of chaos. In one moment, control is lost completely. Then, silence.
This is the devastation of a car accident.
Now, rewind, erase the automobiles, and throw some pads and helmets on the victims. Play.
Many Americans would argue that football is our country’s sport. Professional players are idols for kids and adults alike, and many Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays are spent at stadiums or in front of the television screaming our heads off at our favorite teams. Alongside its history and shimmering glories though, football has a dark-side.
The NFL has been getting a lot of flack in recent years for the permanent head injuries haunting their players. In one study, researchers found chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in 76 out of 79 former NFL players. CTE is a destructive, degenerative disease causing memory problems, aggression, depression and ultimately dementia. CTE famously led Dave Duerson, a former defensive back for the Chicago Bears, to commit suicide in 2012 and his son to sue the NFL for misinforming players of the effects of on-field concussions.
What are the personal sacrifices we are willing to make for sports?
What is the difference between contact and non-contact sports, really?
Aren’t athletes injured in every sport?
The answers (in reverse order):
Of course injuries occur in all sports.
The difference is in frequency of contact.
...and you decide.
The comparison of injuries in football with other non-contact sports like basketball, soccer or ultimate is like apples to oranges. Basketball is full of torn ACLs and sprained ankles, soccer is known for hamstring injuries, knee and ankle sprains, and ultimate has its knee injuries and shoulder tweaks. Contact injuries like concussions, happen on occasion in these non-contact sports too, but a lot less frequently than in sports like football.
Maybe it’s time to consider what we are getting from the sports we play, and what we are willing to give.
When it comes down to it, if given the choice between crutches for a half year because of an ACL tear, and a catastrophic, irreparable loss of control over your memory and emotions, which would you choose? Or think of it from a different angle: which would you choose for your kid, knowing the range of possible damages each sport can cause? Mike Ditka says not football.
In football, if Ditka says it, it must be true. Now where does Evan Lepler stand on the issue?