The NFL concussion issue may not have an impact at this moment, but it threatens to have one in the near future. Currently, it is the number one sport in the United States. Superbowl XLVIII was the most watched television event of all time with a viewership of over 111.5 million witnessing this historic spectacle. This is not a new trend for the National Football League. With the last four of their Superbowls’ have broken into the top five television program in ratings, with this years Superbowl beating out last years big game, previously holding the record of viewership with 111.34. Although the Seattle Seahawks defense completely incapacitated Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos offense and the game became one sided, football fans and commercial watchers could not be moved from the television set. With football fever at an all time high, commissioner of the league Roger Goodell has even proposed two more games to be added on the regular season schedule for the demand-thirsty fans wanting more gridiron action. Although the NFL is at an all time high in terms of popularity, is the sport going full speed on a head on collision with an opponent much bigger than them?
In the last three years, Pop Warner football participation has dropped by as much as 9.5 percent. Although high school and college football remain as the most played sport by students and young adults, a sharp increase in basketball, soccer, and lacrosse enrollment have resulted from wary parents switching their children from tackle football. With recent news and studies surfacing and revealing the long and lasting effects of concussions of players in the NFL, many parents as well as participating students make the health conscious choice. Long term health risks and the possibility of poor initial diagnosis made by many of the teams medical staff have deterred many would-be football athletes into pursuing the sport for fun or as a career.
The potential effects of a trauma brain injury can be very severe if left untreated or poorly diagnosed. According to the Center of Disease Control, who have done studies on former players in the NFL concussion issue, simple brain function and skills such as memory and basic problem solving threaten to be difficult in the future due to irreversible damage as a result of sustained concussions. The five senses are all also altered and not properly working to their full capacity, so touching, smelling, and even tasting can be significantly distorted and may not function to its full ability. Communication break downs and misunderstandings are common to those who suffer from consistent concussions. Communicating and expressing emotions have proven to be difficult for many. The NFL concussion and head injuries studies have shown many times social disability are possible from constant trauma to the head.
Ex-football players have noted changes of behavior that resulted from irate attitude and aggression to social inappropriateness, which fuels even more legitimacy to the concussion health issue. The troubling pattern of increased suicide from former NFL and pro college players from head injuries sustain during their playing time is a loud and sad reminder that we still do not know much about concussions, head injuries, and long-term effects. Although results are not typical, the numbers of former players that have shown signs of long term TBI can no longer be ignored and the full attention of the league is required. NFL concussion studies conducted by the league themselves are not enough if the threat of danger surrounding the issue still remains for future athletes. The league can not be able to continue its success if those with a brain still in tact can make the decision to play another game.
Commentary by Hector Carrion