A rambling look at concussions and the NFL labor problems

I love watching football. There is nothing better then spending a weekend in October sitting and watching hours of football both professional and college.

However, over the last couple of years there has been this re-occurring thought running through my brain. My healthy brain. That thought is primarily concussions but also the severe beating these men put themselves through on weekly basis for our entertainment.

As the NFL owners and players argue with each other over how to split their $9 billion, I keep thinking at some point this will all end, and I believe it will end horribly. (There is a great dissection of one of the owners new tactics in a post on Football Outsiders.)

As players get bigger, stronger, and faster through the aids of better diet and fitness plans that make players more physically ready at a younger age and keep older players game fit longer, some thing has got to give. Yes, they are physically stronger, but I question whether the physics of the human body have evolved to the point where the body can carry the additional weight and additional punishment for any extended period of time.

That says nothing about the now known systemic brain issues football players have that shorten their lives.

I honestly believe on some Sunday afternoon in some NFL stadium someone is going to suffer a catastrophic brain injury that will kill them. At that point, I don’t know what will happen next. I do not know what the reaction will be of the public, the press, or the players. We will learn a lot about ourselves in that moment.

Will we shrug our shoulders and continue to watch and more importantly encourage our children to play this sport? Will we wildly overact and seek to ban football? As an aside, the NCAA was created at the behest of Teddy Roosevelt to regulate football in order to keep it from being band because of all the injuries suffered in its infancy.

I don’t know. All I know is, even as I have this thought, this feeling of dread, I still watch. I still own fantasy teams. I still wait with anticipation for the first meaningful kickoff and subsequent collisions. Am I a hypocrite because of it? Probably.

That probably makes us all hypocrites at some level. We all have that thought in the back of our minds. That is part of the reason people watch. The anticipation of the big hit and seeing someone ragdolled in the middle of the field only to get up and come back in a few plays. The problem is, at some point someone is not getting up.

If only by luck, almost inhuman athleticism, or a combination of both, there have only been a few cases of someone suffering a severe enough spinal injury that they were paralyzed and never able to play football again. At some point that luck has to run out and no amount of athleticism can keep the body from absorbing that much punishment.

The new hitting rules that many players (current and former) decried last year are not only to keep players safe. They are to make fans think players are safe.

That is why I think there are some in the NFL (players, owners, and league staff) who understand this golden goose they have could die at any time, and it may be fueling some of the vigor at which this labor impasse is being fought. They can see that while they are all making a lot of money now, that could dry up very soon. So everyone is digging in, hoping to get their one last big score.

I hope if someone is injured that severely on the field I will turn away. I also hope I’m not alone. If this does happen, I hope we as a football public react with more then just a resigned shrug as we wait for another player to get injured.

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