“The boys I’ve seen, they’re growing up with soccer.”

This can’t be good.

And if this is the best he’s got, Roger Goodell is an idiot.

N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell, speaking at a conference in New Orleans this month, said the sport was “safer than ever” because of awareness about injuries.

“I had a concussion playing baseball, and they didn’t do anything about it,” Goodell added. “We’re smarter about how long we practice.”

The reality is that the problem starts long before the pros get players.

Youth leagues and high schools have followed the N.F.L.’s lead and reduced contact in practice, but most serious injuries occur in games. Safety standards also vary widely. Many schools, for instance, still do not require trainers and emergency workers to be present at games. Coaches are sometimes unable to recognize the symptoms of concussions and unwilling to take players out.

Long term, that doesn’t bode well for the colleges or Goodell’s league.  Ignore it at your peril, fellas.

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UPDATE:  More thoughts from Charlie Pierce.

29 Comments

Filed under The Body Is A Temple, The NFL Is Your Friend.

29 responses to ““The boys I’ve seen, they’re growing up with soccer.”

  1. Roger Goodell is what you get when you have a concussion and don’t get treatment.

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  2. This summer at my 20 yr high school reunion, one of my classmates who went on to play safety for the Vols, then in the NFL for a year or two, was there with his 8 yr old nephew. He was talking about how good of an athlete the nephew was, specific to baseball. I said “well is he playing football too?”, and he said he’s discouraged his sister from letting the nephew play football. Just too many injury concerns. And this was a guy who would eat/sleep/breathe football growing up. There’s definitely a growing sentiment out there.

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    • JonDawg

      I absolutely LOVE UGA football.. my schedule (life?) is built around the games during the fall, and mildly follow recruiting the off-season.. Injuries in football are discussed regularly between my wife and I, and the subject of our son being discouraged to play football has also. For the safety of our son, I’m glad she agrees with me..

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      • sUGArdaddy

        I’m a football guy, so I’m biased. But I’m also a father of four boys who wants them to be safe. But the problem with our fear-mongering is that we have a much better chance of getting in a wreck in a car or probably bitten by a shark, but we keep driving and keep going on vacation.

        UGA had a kid get paralyzed playing baseball. There is no surefire safety. It’s a violent sport, but I wouldn’t trade the lessons of football for anything else. It has shaped my life and leadership like nothing else. I want us to make the game safer, but I also just think that we have to choose to live life. We are at risk every moment of every day from some freak accident, but you have to live.

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        • Russ

          If you’re talking about the acute injuries, then yes, it’s worth the risk. However, the long term debilitating brain injuries worry me, and I’d think long and hard on whether or not I’d let my son play football, if I had a son. My daughter is a band geek (said affectionately) so I don’t have to make that choice.

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          • Russ

            And just to follow up, I fully agree that team sports are a great learning/bonding/fun experience that everyone should have. But there are lots of ways to get that with a smaller chance of brain injury.

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        • 3rdandGrantham

          Football is still a dangerous sport—there is just no getting around that. Yes driving can be dangerous too but cars are pretty much a neccesity, whereas football isnt. Plus if you don’t drink and drive, get off the roads by 10pm, drive a safe car etc, driving is actually quite safe overall.

          Lessons learned in football, such as dedication, teamwork, discipline, etc. certainly can be duplicated elsewhere and in other sports too—it’s not like football is the only team sport out there that possesses such needed qualities.

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    • 3rdandGrantham

      Yep, and it doesn’t have to just be head injuries either, though that certainly in the #1 concern. My brother was an all-state OL in HS, and all the top programs wanted him. However, after his 3rd knee injury he gave it up, and looking back he said it was the best decision he ever made.

      Today in his early 40’s his knees give him quite a bit of trouble, but he’s far better off than his friends who went on to play in college and the NFL. I feel badly for most of them, as they are quite young but have a hard time getting around, playing with their kids, etc.

      On of my friends is a former starting TE for the Chiefs and retired in his late 20’s. He said he will not allow his sons to play football and recommends the same to others.

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  3. SouthernYank

    Deflategate has already showed us that Goodell is an idiot.

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  4. Russ

    I think the long term effects will spell the end of football as a mainstream sport over the next 20-30 years. I can see it going the way of boxing.

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    • 3rdandGrantham

      I don’t see football going away, but I do see it eventually becoming some sort of hybrid between the game as it stands today and flag football. Just look at all the QB rules the NFL has put in place over the past few years, in which you basically can only hit them in the chest only. This will filter down to other positions while eventually QB’s will be protected from tackles altogether.

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  5. AusDawg85

    Parents pulling their kids from football to protect them. Parents putting their kids in professional football programs (IMG Academy) to promote them. This model projects to the continuation of football, but in a more elite world and reduction in the number of participants. Money will be even more concentrated, but rules probably easier to standardize and enforce.

    As a local commentator here says…football in the future will be a bunch of fantasy fans huddled in a theater (sports book style) watching individual players and live streaming stats. No loyalty to teams, etc.

    Somewhere before then I’ll punch out like I’ve done on baseball and basketball.

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  6. 83dawg

    The problem is, soccer is currently struggling with concussions and brain injury as well. At the pro level they are just now starting to address getting concussed players off the field, and are, sadly, way behind the NFL in this regard.

    Except for keepers, the cause of most of the concussions is heading the ball. Not so much heading the actual ball (though there is ongoing research on the effect of this, as well), but the head-to-head and elbow-to-head contact when two players jump up to try to head the same ball.

    Now, a lot of this can be mitigated by coaching. I know that I changed the way I taught it when the data about the cumulative effects of concussions began to be publicized. And I have been gratified to see some HS coaches changing as well. But it is still like the football effort to emphasize proper technique–that helps, but doesn’t always show up in a game.

    Fortunately, for soccer, there is a rule tweak NFHS could put in that wouldn’t change the game much at all (forbid heading outside the penalty area–heck, that would improve the game considering the craptastic headers I see around here). That should cut down on the concussions. There are a couple of further tweaks that could be put in if that didn’t do the job (no jumping to head a ball would change the game some, but should cut the head injuries dramatically).

    Unfortunately for football, I don’t know of any quick fixes.

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    • Soccer will need to have frank discussions about rule changes to deal with a concussions too. But the rate of concussions in the sport is far less than football and most of the head injuries are not caused by ball hitting the head but two players clashing heads or colliding while trying to head.

      I like the idea of eliminating headers outside of penalty box although it might force everyone to play tiki-taka.

      Soccer at the highest levels (where only 3 substitutions are allowed in game) needs to look at changing the rule so that 3 strategic substitutions can be made but any player suspected of a head injury also can be changed too. Soccer has had some pretty dangerous incidents where players with obvious head injuries who should be off have been allow to continue because a team was out of substitutions.

      As far as American football goes, the stewards of the game have to figure out how to make the game safer and teach it properly. Since I am not a football coach and don’t have children who play football, do they have certification system similar to soccer?

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    • 83dawg

      Oh, and I forgot what I started out to say 😎

      As a parent? I Coached soccer for about a decade (this is my first fall off in a rather long time). My kids played from 10-18 years old. In that time, I have had numerous trips to the ER with them. I would still recommend soccer to other parents (with the caveat of keep an eye on the coach and go to a practice or two early just to observe). I would not recommend football. I would be too concerned about head injuries, and the quality of the coaching staff and trainer.

      I didn’t have to make that choice as a parent, as my son is built like a soccer player or baseball middle infielder and even as a kid he understood that football was not a wise choice for him. But I would have made that choice.

      As for my soccer-related ER trips with my children? One whale of a concussion, one trip to check for a concussion because my daughter was out cold for 2-3 seconds, some stitches on a couple of occasions (including inside the mouth), broken arm (in practice!), knee injuries with imaging to check out what was going on in there (both kids, more than once), and some I am sure I have forgotten. I know it sounds horrid, but that is two kids over about 20 seasons each of about 12 games a season plus a tournament, so about 480 games. So if there were 10 ER visits that is 1 per 48 games or one per year, which I consider reasonable.

      Other parents might not.

      Also, if a child wants to play Keeper or Center Back (like mine frequently did), it is just a fact that they ARE going to get hurt. They choose to play there because they like hitting people and playing a contact sport. If they/their parents don’t want to be playing in the mixer, there are other spots with much less contact, all the way up to outside mids, which is perfect for kids who want to play soccer but wish it was a non-contact sport. They can go through a season and just get tripped up a few times, and the person that tripped them will usually get called for a foul.

      I would also like to mention how much I have enjoyed the many thoughtful responses in this thread and that I have been very interested in reading them, and have come across a few new outlooks/ideas to ponder.

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      • Debby Balcer

        I have a friend who has a daughter who plays goalkeeper. She is going to college on a soccer scholarship. Concussions were a major concern for her. She played school and travel soccer at the highest level. She has already had a couple of concussions.

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  7. steve

    Every time the Dawgs run into Sanford on game day, Tattoo is figuratively screaming ‘Ze plane, ze plane’. We know we can legally and morally experience 4.5 hours of Fantasy Island Saturday without a wife’s revenge. Georgia football is a tribal attraction that is just one neuron layer above eating, breathing, sleeping and sex. It is like dialyzing your 4 year experience in Athens back into your veins every Saturday. All the stupid parking tickets, ‘F’s’ in math, long red lights, ROTC Tuesdays and shitty TAs are filtered out by the membrane and you just remember the Swamp Guinea fried catfish, the Varsity, friends (some of them passed on), the Tams, and unbelievable professors like RK Hill. And all college FB fans could probably say the same thing about their feelings.
    But the magic is logically inexplicable. The only survival benefit I can see from this activity is as a surrogate for actual violent conflict. The field is a piece of meaningful property and we want to take it away from an opponent. The TD in the opponent’s end zone is the symbolic rubbing the opponent’s face in the dirt. A visual insult to injury victory gesture.
    But there are pc problems with the current game that may be even more significant than orthopedic and soft tissue injuries. This is a game of colonialism. Taking property that is not yours is VERY non pc. Women do not play the game and that is also very non pc. Many parents don’t allow their boys to play tackle football. Finally, the current concern over chronic traumatic encephalopathy will result in endless expensive lawsuits. They have already started.
    So even though we live all year for the autumn and the 5 months of Fantasy Island Saturdays I expect ultimately it will be cancelled or changed beyond recognition.
    To this point in my life I have yet to experience a similar feeling of a sustained 80+ yard drive against an SEC foe who is ranked higher and expected to win and we have literally beaten the will to play out of them. This happens infrequently which makes it that much more special. EVERYONE in the stadium knows each Georgia offensive play will be at least a 10 yard gain. WE Know these things: We will not turn the ball over. We will score at the end of the drive. We can pass or run…doesn’t matter…it will be a gain. The players, band, announcers, music selection specialist and crowd connect in red and black ispace over the stadium to finish the devastation that was started on the field.
    Man, I hope and pray this Saturday’s episode of Fantasy Island ends with a memory that is not caught by the dialysis membrane. I think it is time we returned a favor to Saban.

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  8. PEAK Football my brothers … we are seeing it now. Don’t know how many college football players this school district develops (probably quite a few considering they were in the state championship game five years ago) but just imagine if you will if this was Gwinnett County or DeKalb or Cobb or Fulton etc or any of these big Metro county school systems that churn out 25 to 50 D1 college players every year.

    At some point, a large, cash-strapped school system near here strapped will throw in the towel on football because the cost of keeping players safe and/or insuring them if they get hurt will be too large for it make sense to play football.

    As the talent pool shrinks for football, there will be less interest in it and football’s time as the #1 sport in America will be over. It won’t go away or become a minor sport like horse racing or boxing, but it will be more like baseball.

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  9. The Dawg abides

    It partly boils down to the evolution of the helmet. My father played high school ball in the early fifties. They wore light plastic helmets with no facemasks. He says no one used their head like they do now. There were no violent head to head collisions, just good form tackles and blocking. Nobody lead with their helmet or went face first into a tackle. He played center, and said they didn’t bang helmets on every play like the lineman do now. The drawback was taking a forearm to the face regularly and he kept a busted nose the whole season. There was no emphasis on the big hit, just getting someone to the ground with a good tackle. When we happen upon a rugby match on TV, he says that style of contact more resembles how they used to play. A few years back a doctor somewhere suggested getting rid of helmets. It’s a radical concept, but just may carry some merit.

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    • Hunkering Hank

      To your point, I coach what is called “Division 1” youth travel football here in Georgia at a very competitive program that is ranked, from time to time, by borntocompete.com as one of the best in Georgia. I say that to say this – we are doing everything we can to nearly eliminate helmet to helmet hits in our program. Our offensive and defensive linemen do their “indy” drills against one another, at nearly full speed, without their helmets on. Notice I wrote “nearly full speed” – we don’t want soccer-style concussions from accidentally knocking their heads. The idea is to get them used to not using their helmets as battering rams. We constantly preach the use of our hands. Frankly, good linemen should really not be slamming their heads into anyone – they should be using their hands to engage and control the opponent. Hell, that’s all you’ve got on defense is that you can hold and pull and yank the other guy at the line of scrimmage! We also extensively practice the Seattle Seahawks “Hawk Tackle” – which is, essentially, a rugby tackle where the head of the defender does not cross the front of the runner, but instead goes behind the runner and the defender wraps and rolls the runner to the ground. The head just doesnt’ get involved. Thank you Pete Carrol, for that one. It’s not as hard to do as it is to explain. But it must be taught. And the coaches can’t be idiots or trying to relive the glory days or fulfill some lost dream through their sons. Finally, if we have a kid drop his head and hit with his helmet, all hell breaks loose. We won’t put up with it. None of this will stop players from getting hurt some, but we are doing all we can, while still playing fast and hard, to reduce the chance of a concussion or catastrophic spinal injury.

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  10. Cousin Eddie

    My oldest plays and has played since 1st grade and he is now in the 9th grade. I do not force him to play but I monitor his play closely.

    A couple of games back we were leaving the stadium and a lady saw my wife wearing here shirt stating she was a football mom and the lady asked, “How can you let you son play such a rough sport?” Before my wife could respond I told her he played it because he loved the sport and wanted to play and I felt he was OK playing. I then asked if she was her to watch he Grandchild in the band, just being nice. She told me she had no children or grandchildren in the school but hasn’t missed a game in years. I then asked her why she came to watch such a rough sport. And she said she loved to watch the game but could never let her children or grandchildren play because she was afraid they would get hurt. My response was, “so it is OK for you to watch my child get hurt? If people quit coming to the games kids would quit playing because the school would quit funding it.” At this point my wife stepped in as she could tell I was getting aggravated with the situation and started talking to the lady as I walked off.

    The roughness of football is like the weather, everyone likes to talk about it but nobody really cares until it starts raining on their parade.

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  11. Dog in Fla

    “UPDATE: More thoughts from Charlie Pierce.”

    Those on the casualty list shall be in our thoughts and prayers.
    Now a word from one of our sponsors

    “Trample the weak. Hurdle the dead.” A. Hun

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  12. Chris

    The pussification of America continues, plain and simple.

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  13. ASEF

    We are so fixated on football for what it says about us. Our high school games validate our communities. Our college programs validate us personally, as much for the “studs” who choose to play for said programs as the results on the field.

    It’s interesting to me that most of my kid’s friends who play football do so for these external reasons: peer pressure, community pressure, parental pressure, belonging. They all have other sports they would play for no recognition or external reasons at all: they just love that sport. None of them.love football.

    That’s why my son dropped football this year as a rising freshman. He’ll go to war in the post (basketball) with kids 6 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier. He once got knocked out for 10 seconds chasing a loose ball. But he finds the constant violence and risk of injury in football to be too much.

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  14. RugbyDawg79

    RUGBY !

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