Athletes put themselves at higher risk of injury when they are involved in full contact sports. The seriousness of their injuries is not always known until it is too late to help them. The players that are affected may not be aware of the complications until it is too late for them to recover or get help. Diseases and debilitating injuries can lay dormant in the athlete for years with little to no symptoms. Studies in the past ten years have begun uncovering numerous diseases and injuries football players suffer. Athletes and families lives are negatively affected and even ended by terrible injuries that could have been prevented.
Rugby players do not suffer as many concussions as football players because of their body awareness on the field of play, use of safe techniques, and the strict enforcement of safety rules. They are taught to tackle differently and not use their heads as a device to bring down the opponent. Players need to be keen on their body awareness and careful of their position when going into contact. There are rules in rugby to protect the players from being exposed to serious injury. High tackles, dangerous tackles, unnecessary contact, and many other penalties are in place to keep players safe. Chris Bodenner wrote an article for The Atlantic that states, “An equal one is the ‘culture of respect’ that’s one of the game’s foundations and most carefully guarded traditions. Players rarely deliberately hurt one another; when they do, they are banned for months on end.” The culture of respect between rugby players is a known agreement to leave the fighting and differences on the field. It is a rough sport and has a sense of brotherhood for all players, regardless of the team or skill. Safety is of the utmost importance for the referee. When a player commits a dangerous penalty, they are sent off of the field and must stay off for a time range of two to ten minutes. If the official overseeing the match deems the action seriously dangerous, the athlete in the wrong will be suspended anywhere from one week to indefinitely. Participants understand the results of their actions and take extra precaution to keep themselves and their opponents safe.
Naturally, football has a lot of contact and physicality involved. The problem is not the physical nature of it, but the unnecessary and unsafe techniques players use. The basic contact in football is blocking and tackling. Football players risk career-ending, even life-threatening injury every time they slam into an opponent. Even worse, recent studies have shown that injuries to the brain may lie dormant and symptomless for years. Cumulative injuries that could have been prevented if detected in time result in mental illnesses ranging from depression to dementia and even suicide.
Football players can receive “mini” concussions over one-hundred times throughout a game when they slam into an opponent. These mini-concussions are small, unnoticeable concussions are caused by repetitive blows to the head causing the brain to slam into the skull, but without any symptoms of a concussion. Players that are blocking and tackling often have more of these mini-concussions. The complications that come from cumulative mini-concussions do not show up for years. Down the line, a person may begin to have symptoms of dementia, aggression, and personality changes. They will not be aware that they are changing, but their family will notice. This is CTE. CTE is caused by repetitive head trauma that cumulates and slowly destroys the brain. It may not show any symptoms for ten or more years. Doctors have no real cure for CTE, and it can result in life-ending consequences.
Elite level football athletes are more likely to end up with horrific complications from concussions compared to any other elite level athlete. For example, NFL players, like Junior Seau, have taken their own lives because of CTE complications. Junior Seau was a linebacker in the NFL that was recognized for his passionate play and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He received countless blows to the head throughout his football career and was found to have suffered CTE. CTE does not show a person’s true emotions and personality, but it distorts their thinking and turns them into someone they never would have become. According to Mary Pilon and Ken Benson, “Researchers at Boston University, who pioneered the study of C.T.E., have found it in 33 of the 34 brains of former N.F.L. players they have examined.” The disease can only be identified after death with the close eye of a trained doctor and a microscope. The NFL has turned a blind eye for too long and left these traumatic injuries and complications to the wayside. The techniques used in football must change, or future and current players will follow the footsteps of those that suffered before them.
People that participate in football and other high-impact sports are accepting of life-changing injuries when they agree to play the sport, but they do not expect it to be life ending. Football players are padded, and they do not receive as much of an immediate effect from high-impact head injuries. The small amount of pain or “ringing” is brushed off as a good hit. The player then goes on to receive countless of these impacts which eventually manifest into permanent brain damage and at the worst, CTE. Football fans and players can be ignorant of the facts, but outsiders do not desire to stop them from participating. The conversation about football and life-altering injuries only pushes to make it safer, not eliminate it.
When good techniques are used, it is not always good enough. Bringing down an opponent at full speed is not easy and can be extremely unsafe. Rugby players also receive head injuries, but it happens less than football players. The pure inertia of stopping someone running full speed can compress the spine and cause havoc on the skull. The symptoms are not always immediate but can cause future, unforeseen complications. Overall, contact sports display numerous possible injuries, and the players are not always able to avoid them. The decisions players make on the field, and the techniques they employ are a deciding factor in most injuries. No athlete is safe, but every athlete should think about themselves and their health before pushing too far and engaging in dangerous play.
Pilon, M., & Belson, K. (2013, January 10). Seau Suffered From Brain Disease. Retrieved April 1, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/11/sports/football/junior-seau-suffered-from-brain-disease.html
Bodenner, C. (2016, October 14). Which Is More Dangerous, Rugby or Football? Retrieved April 1, 2018, from https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2016/10/rugby/504143/