American Football: a Reformation of Current Football System
Medical research has shown a definitive link between playing American Football and the change in a participants brain chemistry. Additionally, results are starting to prove that the younger a participant is, the higher chance they have of severely altering the makeup of their brains. This topic has long been coming, and finally, I believe that with all the evidence that has been discovered, American Football should be banned until the age of 18. Specifically in high schools, because they are federally funded, which in part means that our government supports the detrimental effects that come from exposing our youth to such a violent sport. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not arguing that we should eliminate football altogether because that would be a nearly impossible task. Yet I am arguing that banning youth contact football, from pop warner football up to high school would help save hundreds of thousands of lives.
My argument is that the sport should be completely taken out of schools and banned for anyone under the age of 18. The NFL would still exist and there would be a feeder league to it similar to those of the minor leagues, athletes over the age of 18, that have the freedom of being an adult, will be able to decide if the benefits of playing the sport outweigh the risk. The risk of playing Contact football from such a young age should be weighed against the benefits.
At Boston University, researchers found that players in all three groups who participated in youth football before the age of 12 had a twofold “risk of problems with behavioral regulation, apathy and executive function” and a threefold risk of “clinically elevated depression scores.” (Belson 2) The research done by BU suggests that the earlier you get exposed to full contact in football, the early you are to experience changes in brain chemistry, now some people may argue that football is becoming safer, which is true to a certain extent as certain rules such as targeting rules, kickoffs have been changed, concussions are still extremely prevalent and may deter a students ability to learn and also affect younger athletes for longer periods of time than older players.
Some people may argue that football in schools, Football provides society’s youth with much-needed exercise. I agree that we should not discourage kids from physical activity’s, especially when more than 35 percent of the youth in our country are obese. However, football is just one of the many different options of exercise that are offered to the youth and arguing that taking football away until the age of 18 would have a monumental effect on our societies health problems is just incorrect as football actually has a detrimental effect on our youth’s health and there are many different alternatives in which exercise can be taken care of.
While banning football for athletes until the age of 18 would prompt people into arguing that Football is indented in our nation’s identity. I believe that it wouldn’t be fathomable to completely take football away for the time being. So, I have proposed an alternative route that can be used for athletes over the age of 18 that want to play football at the next level. Basically, younger athletes would be told to participate in all sports except for football, ranging from soccer to basketball, then finally being put into private football leagues, that would become the feeder system to college and professional football. Parents and athletes that are old enough to accept the risk would still be able to work towards playing in the NFL. These feeder systems would be funded by the NFL, taking care of health and liability insurance. Different to how high school football’s costs being put on the government and the taxpayers of our country that may have doubts about the sport. Club and travel football would offer an option for parents who don’t mind the risk football poses to their kids without the taxpayers subsidizing that risk.
Additionally, NFL coaches, college coaches, and former professional players appear to be overwhelmingly in favor of waiting to play tackle football until high school. Some even recommend taking up a different activity entirely until then. Don’t take my word for it. Ask University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who said, “I think every American boy should play soccer till the eighth grade. Then they should play football.” Professional and College Football Hall of Famers Mike Ditka, John Madden, Jim McMahon, Harry Carson, Nick Buoniconti, and Brett Favre have expressed similar sentiments. (Nowinski 1)
To explain this, a child’s cognitive capacity at age 9 compared to age 12 is drastically different, and it is even more so at 18; the brain is physically changing every day to become more like that of an adult. In a study published by Chris Nowinski, that found football players who began playing before age 12 were twice as likely to have problems with behavioral regulation in adulthood (e.g., impulse control, controlling emotional responses) and three times as likely to struggle with depression.
To put this into perspective, let’s take a look at one of the many cases of CTE found in NFL players in which the repercussions of playing football slowly takes these athletes lives away. In this particular case, we have Teo-Nesheim, who grew up in the Seattle area and is from Hawaii, he is the youngest former NFL player to be found with C.T.E., which can only be diagnosed posthumously. The version of CTE that he was diagnosed with was a less severe version of the disease, which has been found in hundreds of other football players. The interesting part of this case is that Teo-Nesheim left a trail of documents, letters, text messages, photographs and voice messages that share a heartbreaking story of a football player’s last years few years leading up to his death. Teo began to display C.T.E.’s now familiar symptoms including paranoia, disorientation, memory lapses, and angry outbursts. Teo started playing contact football from the age of 11, McKee said.”Studies show the early onset of Te’o-Nesheim’s C.T.E.-related symptoms the paranoia, depression, and dementia happens more frequently in players who start tackle football before the age of 12.(Belson 3) When you take add up all the years of him playing football, it equates to about half his life. I know that we all love football, but the facts are overwhelming, allowing our youth to play football is simply putting their lives on risk, ask yourself this question, would you allow your child to play this violent sport even after reading this story? Teo-Nesheim was a star player in college, he went through a lot of minor and serious injuries that changed his brain chemistry forever, ultimately leading to his death. Now while this is only one particular case, I bring it up because it represents the sad reality is that football has caused these long and painful deaths for hundreds of athletes, in the past and will continue to do so it the near future, especially to the ones who start playing from a younger age. It’s scary when you consider the repercussions of letting your child start playing at a young age.
If there is any chance that banning football until the age of 18 will help save a life then why would we not consider it? We’ll still have our College and N.F.L football until the evidence is too overwhelming, but in the meantime, the evidence is already there to prove that starting contact football from an older age has a significant positive impact on these athletes, as their brains are better developed and more equipped to take the gruesome hits that occur in the sport of football.Additionally, playing football from a younger age affects school work and ultimately lead to student-athletes being at a disadvantage in the classroom. Last year, all of the Ivy league’s football teams banned tackling during their practices as sub-concussive head impacts are identified as a source of accrued damage. Football athletes experience hundreds of such blows each season and new technology such as rest-function magnetic imaging was used to study changes in the brain chemistry of clinically asymptomatic high school football athletes. Athletes exhibited short-term changes relative to baseline and across sessions. While only 5.7 percent of high school seniors who participate in football make it to the college and 0.09% of high school seniors make it to the N.F.L, why should the other 1.1 million athletes that participate in the sport be put at a disadvantage in the classroom. Football is a double whammy because most players won’t end up making money from the sport and they’ll also be worse off in the real world, as their injuries halt them from making the most of their brains.
On the other hand, people may argue that football prepares its players for life and that the lessons that the sports teach are unmatchable, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a youth tackle football coach, kicked off a keynote about youth tackle football by promoting what, to him, makes football more conducive to teaching life lessons than other sports. He said, “Football accountability is a little different. In football accountability, if 10 people do the job right but one guy does the job wrong, someone gets hurt or gets messed up pretty bad.” This is true to a certain extent, but why should anyone get “messed up pretty bad” in the first place. The argument that football teaches impeccable lessons is compelling because while football does teach some great life lessons, it is almost too easy for a college head coach, or a person in a position that makes millions of dollars off of these kids to say so. These student-athletes spend almost 90 percent of their time dedicated to busting their behinds off, receiving life-threatening injuries all while putting off schoolwork that could actually help them become successful. Now don’t get me wrong, there is that 0.09% of participants that end up making millions from playing in the NFL, but the harsh reality is that almost 97% of participants don’t end up making it to that level.
To say that these steps should be taken would be an understatement. There have already been huge steps taken as a steady decline in the number of parents allowing their children to participate in football. With more and more information coming available, the decline in high school football had been steadily increasing, from 7% in the last decade. (Messer 2) A lot of this is due to the headlines that are popping up on the news, not just the headlines about the constant behavior outrages of star players, but also the growing number of young players deciding to end their careers short in order to live healthier lives. “”Recently, Chris Borland, a promising young San Francisco 49ers player, quit the pros after just one year, citing the risk to his health. That’s a strong statement””.(Chandramouli 1) Borland says, “”Football is a brutal sport that can have lifelong consequences!”” Decisions like this one from pros are really opening peoples eyes on if playing the sport is really worth it. “”When your brain is bashed against your skull, it never fully recovers. In fact, scientists are learning that repeated concussions may lead to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and memory loss. If we stop our youth from using Cigarettes, Vape Instruments, and Alcohol until a certain age due to having a detrimental effect, then why allow them to damage their brains by playing football. Experts believe that new information is staggering. “This is an extremely important and convincing piece of work, [which] leaves no doubt that there is a serious issue in American football,” says John Hardy, a professor of neuroscience at University College London, who was not involved with the study. “We now have very good evidence there is a problem, which needs to be addressed immediately in terms of rule changes to reduce head contact if the sport is to survive.” While some rule changes have been made, the future of the sport looks to be in doubt, especially as large amounts of parents have been withdrawing their children from the sport.
Now while all of this evidence is stacked up right in front of us, we still fail to realize the underlying root of the problem. Just because Football generates a lot of money and entertainment doesn’t change the fact that is has a disasters effect on its players. “”The difference here, I would say, is in the “for our entertainment” part. That’s where the NFL gets us all. It is a choice to watch football and everything we get out of it is non-essential. It is an outlet, that attracts something within us, a certain reaction that makes us feel every brutal collision as though we were making the tackle ourselves. We don’t think twice when we watch an airborne human body get absolutely wrecked by another airborne body, helmet first, hearing the crunch of their bones, but yet “ouch,” we say. That looks painful!” And we reach for the remote control and hit the rewind button.”” It is a great contradiction because we know what is at stake, It seems like every night the NFL is on, a broken leg or two occurs. Now even though, broken bones are horrifying, nothing is scarier than the effects that football has on its participant’s brains. I bring this up, not to argue that the NFL should be taken away but to bring up the point that the sport is dangerous and that we subconsciously avoid looking at the truth about the sport. Of course, the likelihood of all of us coming together to boycott watching the N.F.L is extremely small, as small as the players collectively deciding that they don’t want to risk the health consequences or the owners collectively deciding that they don’t want to expose so many young men to brain damage. I bring this up to point out that we must find a solution to save as many people as we can and I truly believe that it all starts with decreasing the risk from the youth levels, and the most effective way of doing that would be by banning football until the age of 18.
In conclusion, football should be banned until the age of 18. Simply because it benefits the people of our nation.