Brain damage from football calls for the sport to be benched


Rylan Hefner

Football causes significant brain damage, and SPA should not let its students play on a school team.

Football teams have been a constant part of high school sports across the country for years, and have become a staple of most high school homecoming celebrations. Almost every high school in America has a football team, and SPA is no exception. However, with substantial amounts of evidence pointing to serious brain damage and severe health side effects in football players, the question needs to be asked whether or not it is right for SPA to be putting students in danger by participating in football.

There is no denying that concussions are an inevitable part of football. Unfortunately, they are as much a staple of the game as fans cheering on the sidelines. Concussions are already extremely harmful to the brain, causing it to bruise and twist, but repeated concussions can cause even more serious long-term problems, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. CTE is the result of repeated bruising and twisting of the brain causing a buildup of a protein called tau. Over time, the tau will work its way through the brain, eventually causing the brain to deteriorate and lose mass. Researchers at Boston University have autopsied the brains of former football players and found that 110 of 111 former football players for the NFL had CTE, along with 7 of 8 former players for the Canadian Football League, 9 of 14 semi-professional players, and 3 of 14 former high school players. Some common symptoms of CTE include depression, aggression, memory loss, impaired judgement, impulsive behavior, difficulty thinking, difficulty planning, emotional instability, and in some cases, suicidal thoughts or behavior.

One of the worst and most recent cases of CTE belonged to Aaron Hernandez, a former NFL player, who had also played football in high school. In April of 2017, Hernandez committed suicide while in prison where he was serving time for murder. After his death it was revealed that he had stage 3 CTE, with stage 4 being the worst. Hernandez, who was only 27, had suffered from the most severe case of CTE for someone his age.

Unfortunately, the general public doesn’t seem to be catching on to the dangers of football and its many side effects, like CTE. The NFL has implemented several new rules in an attempt to make the game more safe, but it still isn’t enough. President Trump tweeted in September of 2017, “They’re ruining the game, right? They’re ruining the game. It’s hurting the game,” in response to the new rules, demonstrating how little many people care about the safety of the football players.

Many people argue that soccer is just as dangerous, which is partially true. Heading the ball in soccer can also lead to concussions, and then subsequently CTE, but that can easily be avoided by making heading the ball illegal, something which SPA and MSHSL have yet to do. The issue of concussions in soccer is not nearly as pressing or severe as in football, where the very nature of the game leads to concussions unless the game is no-contact.

While the decisions and rules of the NFL are up to the officials, there is nothing stopping us from discouraging this type of football at our own school. There is plenty of substantial evidence pointing to CTE and brain damage in football players starting as early as middle and high school. While ending the sport altogether may not be the easiest or most popular solution, the game could be modified to be a no-contact sport, like flag football. Yes, the game might not seem as interesting or fun, but is the enjoyment gained from playing or watching football really worth risking the lives of our fellow classmates and students?