Why I wouldn’t let my son play football

Since its rise to prominence, football has become America’s national pastime.

As a nation, we simply cannot get enough of it. The scoring and big hits attract people from all different backgrounds. In my opinion, the NFL is the greatest reality television series in the world.

Unfortunately, the game brings an incredible amount of risk.

American football is the most dangerous contact sport in our society. According to Total Pro Sports, football players are nearly twice as likely to sustain an injury than a basketball player.

The NFL is making a serious effort to make the game “safer,” but in my opinion, its resistance is futile. Football is not and will not be safe.

If I ever become a father, I would have some serious reservations about football. This inherent risk has brought me to a saddening conclusion: I would never let my son play football.

This is incredibly painful for me to say, because I played football most of my life. Starting in pee-wee and going all the way through my high school varsity team, it consumed my life.

Every day, I see what the game did to me.

I wake up and crack my back 20 different ways. I suffered a hernia and at least two concussions. I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

It seems like every time you watch a football game, someone is getting carted off the field on a stretcher. It’s a sad reality about the game.

The game has never been more entertaining and has never been more dangerous. Coaches want players that are bigger, faster and stronger.

The most alarming aspects of football are the injuries that often go undiagnosed, such as concussions.

CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated head trauma. Junior Seau is a former NFL All-Pro and surefire Hall of Famer. He committed suicide this past May and was diagnosed with CTE postmortem. This is the kind of story that surely makes NFL commissioner Roger Goodell cringe.

This sad story makes you look at the big picture in this game we call life.

We play and watch football for entertainment. The ultimate question is, at what cost? Surely, death can’t be worth entertainment for the masses. We don’t live in ancient Rome. Our society can’t be that violent.

Obviously, NFL players are well compensated for their risk. The salaries are enormous and only continue to grow.

That compensation doesn’t reach all levels of football, though. College players, high school players and kids receive no compensation at all.

Football is by far the most physically and mentally demanding sport Americans play. Far too many athletes have no backup plan. Not everyone is going to make it to the NFL. In fact, very few football players will ever come close to that level of competition. This is what concerns me so much.

One moment I can’t forget is from this college football season. It was when South Carolina’s running back Marcus Lattimore tore his ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, again.

It was such a brutal injury to watch. You couldn’t help but feel bad for the kid. There’s a guy virtually the same age as me with so much talent. Boom. His career could be over, just like that.

I hope for Lattimore’s sake that he has a backup plan. I find it hard to believe an NFL team will give him a chance.

It’s something we need to start thinking about collectively as a society.

I know that I will continue to watch and enjoy football, but unless my child is uniquely talented, it might not be worth the inherent risk involved.

 

Reach the columnist at jbisacci@asu.edu

 

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