The stadium erupts. Fans are yelling in support, the guys next to you are fist bumping, and the cheerleaders are dancing and shouting. Your team’s safety just leveled the opposing team’s wide receiver, and you couldn’t be happier. While big plays like this are adrenaline pumping and rack up millions of views on youtube, it’s the allure to disaster that draws the viewer in. Few people think about the wide receiver on the ground, helmet off, being checked out by the medical staff. Everyone remembers the safety who put him there. These types of plays, and football’s nature of hard hits and violent impacts, are why many parents are not allowing their kids to play youth football. A recent study researched by Boston University proved that kids who began play tackle football after the age of 12 had significantly fewer cognitive and behavioral problems than those who began playing before 12. The human brain rapidly develops between the ages of 10 and 12, and this is the impetus for a movement many scientists are pushing for: no tackle football until a child is in their teenage years. Parents, coaches, and leagues are starting to take notice. Pop Warner, the biggest youth football league in the country, has reduced contact in practice, changed game rules, and even banned kickoffs, one of the most dangerous and violent aspects of the game. It is estimated that children from 9-12 playing tackle football can sustain 240-585 hits to the head each season. While new CTE data is coming out frequently, we all know one thing: football is bad for your brain. And yes, precautions have been taken to make football safer, players get ejected for targeting and rules about when and who to block have changed, there is still a brain injury problem ominously hanging around the sport of football. Am I saying we should stop playing football? Absolutely not. All I am saying is that more work needs to be done to protect our players on the field, so they can live a life off the field. This could be done with improved helmets, more flag football being played while young, or new scientific breakthroughs. Whatever the fix may be, we need to find it soon. Until then, we should probably stop celebrating the bone crunching hits and try to solve our concussion conundrum.
2020 has been no normal year. It has been full of unpredictability, which makes us uncomfortable.