Risks of Competitive Sports
Playing competitive and contact sports has numerous physical, social, and health benefits. However, despite the benefits of playing sports, the decision to engage in contact sports such as football should not be taken lightly. Often overlooked, playing contact sports such as football can lead to multiple concussions, which can ultimately result in short and long-term traumatic brain injuries. These concussions occur when one receives a violent blow to the head from an outside force. The short and long-term effects of concussions from contact sports has been a controversial topic of discussion in the past decade in football, especially after the unexpected death of the former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, who was diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease found in athletes with a history of concussions. Based on the alarming statistics of concussions in football, it is imperative that football communities at all levels of play strongly discuss the various effect of concussions and impose appropriate regulations in order to create an environment that is more conducive to the health and safety of football players and their families.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) being the leading concern for the effects of long-term traumatic brain injuries in football players, makes it crucial that rules which further aid the protection of football athletes against concussions are strictly enforced. CTE, as a result of multiple concussions, is a disease that currently does not have a reliable process for a proper diagnosis and requires proof of brain “degeneration and deposits of tau and other proteins that can only be seen upon inspection after death”(Mayo). Currently, there are only two methods of diagnosing CTE which are through different forms of Magnetic resonance imaging and Position emission tomography (Abreu 5) which are both proven to not be fully accurate. With the devastating consequences of CTE being fatal, it is vital that rules, which prevent concussions from initially occurring or preventing re-occurrences, are strictly imposed, as the only methods available to diagnose this disease are inaccurate, which further puts the athletes life in danger as they might not see the effects of their concussions until it is too late. The increasing frequency of concussion occurrence in football at all levels does not help nor justify the problem, which currently plagues the sport.
Due to the increasing rate of traumatic brain injuries in football players, rules concerning player safety must become more of a concern and must be strictly adhered to by everyone involved in the football community. For example, a study published earlier this year evaluated the frequency of concussions in football. The results of the study showed that forty-seven percent of all reported sports concussions occur during high school football and that one in five high school athletes will sustain a sports concussion during the season (Harmon). In addition, a total of 169 concussions were reported at the division 1 level (Lynall 97) and 271 on the National level (Campbell). With the frequent occurrence of concussions, football teams should be obligated by the heads of the association to enforce more strict policies for ensuring player safety. For example, the NCAA has limited control on how football athletes are taken care of at their member schools. Because the NCAA does not control the education and training of student athletes at its member schools, they consequently do not owe any legal duties to the student athletes who engage in sports at its member schools (Bauer 348). As a result, member schools ultimately control over the medical attention and care of student athletes and also are not obligated by the organization to follow certain procedures. Creating standard safety regulation that is enforced at all schools that have competitive football programs would help decrease and minimize and control the number of concussions sustained by football athletes.
In an effort to maintain traditions of the sport, counter-arguments have been made that football associations have taken actions towards minimizing and preventing the effects of concussions in the sport. For example, youth organizations have restrictive policies, which limit head-to-head impact during games and practices. In addition, return-to-play guidelines have been implemented in order to improve player safety and decrease traumatic brain injuries experienced by football players. For example, policies such as “when in doubt, sit it out” requires a football athlete experiencing a suspected sustained concussion to be immediately removed from play for the day (Bachynski 325). In addition to implementing stricter return-to-play guidelines, equipment standards in football have also been emphasized. For example, football athletes require a helmet with a fastened chinstrap and along with a secured facemask (Bachynski 325).
Although return-to-play guideline and equipment standards have been somewhat enforced, the rate of concussions in all levels of competitive football is still increasing. First of, the implemented equipment standards does not combat the issue of concussions. Although, the improved evaluations of helmets help reduce fatalities and other catastrophic head injuries such as skull fractures, studies show that the equipment improvements are not designed to prevent traumatic brain injuries (Cronan). According to Kevin Walters, a scientist at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, “At this time, no protective equipment can prevent concussion” (Bachynski 328). Although concussions cannot be fully prevented, creating laws that enforce an increased level of player safety and that implement a more thorough care for athletes would help reduce the amount of concussions and the risks of brain injuries in football.
The game of American Football has become a significant sport with that has helped build love within communities. In addition, Football is a form fitness which at the same time provides an environment for character development and teamwork. However, negative effects such as concussions can forestall the benefits of footballs. The effects of concussions in football can be detrimental and fatal to the athletes. The negative consequences of playing football are too significant to be ignored. Although the benefits of playing the football are enticing, the health and safety of the athletes involve must come first.