“Football is at a crossroads.”

Regardless of where your sentiments fall in the debate about head injury protocol, I highly recommend this Jon Wilner piece, which is noteworthy if for no other reason than trying to present a balanced approach to the issues.

In so doing, he raises an important question:  are we focusing on the wrong problem?

“It is established that a brain can take a concussion or two, but if you hit it in the head 1,000 times in three months, you are opening the door to hell,” said Chris Nowinski, author of “Head Games: Football’s Concussion Crisis” and a doctoral candidate in behavioral neuroscience at Boston University School of Medicine.

The issue, according to Nowinski and others who have studied the evidence, is not a single concussion. Or even a few concussions. It’s what the scientific community refers to as sub-concussive collisions: the endless series of symptomless blows absorbed by the head during a football career.

There’s a lot there.  It’ll make you think.  Read it.


Filed under The Body Is A Temple

20 responses to ““Football is at a crossroads.”

  1. Russ

    Haven’t read this piece yet but when I read about the sub-concussive hits and links to CTE I knew it would fundamentally change football. It will take many years (and lawsuits), but this plus the money flooding CFB right now will marginalize the game.


  2. I don’t think we’ll be playing football in 25 years if the medical research and legal troubles keep “heading” in the way it looks like it’s going. Guess who gets left holding the bag on the debt for these stadiums when the game goes away? The taxpayers, that’s who.

    If football transforms into glorified 7-on-7, I’ll find another sport to watch.


  3. ApalachDawg

    If football dies, I predict in 50 years this is the sport we will be watching in Sanford Stadium…




  4. Macallanlover

    Football is trending in a direction that may well end the sport in the next 10-15 years. In light of these discussions, I really don’t know why the kickoffs are still allowed. Along with receivers going across the middle, it often has the most violent collision of bodies at high speeds. You probably can’t do much more about the receivers over the middle but kickoffs are usually the first thing eliminated in scrimmages, spring games, and all-star games. Just put the ball on the 20. Yes, we would miss a few exciting run backs but the biggest loss would be the on-side kick’s ability to give some teams a chance to recover from large losses….and how many times does that happen?


    • I agree with you, Mac, but may go a little farther with eliminating punting and returns. If you’re on the plus side of the field, you either have to go for it, attempt a field goal, or put the ball on the 20 (i.e., touchback). If you’re on the minus side of the field, make it a 40-yard field position and possession change.

      Until players go back to tackling using appropriate “heads up” techniques, you’re never going to fix the problem.


    • 83dawg

      You could give the “kicking” team the choice of giving the opponents the ball on the 25 1st and 10, or keeping the ball and having a 4th and 15 from their own 35. Get a first down? Keep the ball. No? Too bad.

      Or adjust it however, like 4th and 25 from your own 25.

      Sounds more fun than most kickoffs, really…


      • Isn’t this basically what Greg Schiano proposed a few years ago when his player got paralyzed on a kickoff return at Rutgers? I’m with you – sounds more fun than a lot of kickoffs and involves some strategery from the “kicking” team.


    • CannonDawg

      I’m not sure it will end in 10-15 years, but the game will change from what we’ve known, and probably dramatically so. My sense is the change will be driven from the bottom up as pee wee football continues to decline as parents defer their kids’ participation until high school (if even then). I could see the NFL being as obstinate and dissembling as the tobacco companies were as their enterprise comes under increasing scrutiny. The research data will increase over time, and while I’m not a medical professional, I can’t see additional findings making the picture any prettier for the NFL (or for parents).

      Who knows what will happen? Will the colleges become more formalized farm systems for the NFL? Will there be enough players to support 120+ major D-1 programs? And might there be a tipping point where the college and pro games are no longer a major attraction for fans?

      And as the attendance figures and TV money begin to decline at a sharper, more alarming rate, think of the idiocy that will be employed to keep the people in the seats. Free booze, fireworks, a post-game concert, fights in the stands . . . no wait, that’s already here (except for the free booze).

      I suppose we’ll find out soon enough. In the meantime, I sure hope Kirby can get us another natty! Go Dawgs!!


      • Macallanlover

        Perhaps should have said, “end as we know it”. I have no problem with ending the cheap shots on receivers and QBs but am alarmed at the legit tackles where there is contact up high; if we continue to severely penalize those incidental hits (even though violent) made at full speed because they are above the nipples, they will lose many of us. You have to separate the truly unnecessary from the borderline.


    • Sides

      The sport will end in the next 15 years? That is ridiculous. There may be a slight decline in the number of players but high school, middle school, and pee wee teams are still cutting players from their teams. The game will continue to change like it has over the past years. It will be less physical and more like 7 on 7 (like watching Baylor play) but it will stay popular. The sport has a long tradition and it would take more than 15 years to kill the sport.

      CTE is making a lot of headlines but the sport has plenty of advocates. I heard Mike Golic on the radio a few weeks ago talking about how he had no concerns about his kids playing football. Do you think Thomas Davis will regret playing football? He is about to suit up for the biggest game of his career with a broken arm. This is after 3 knee surgeries. Will he be able to walk down stairs at age 50? I doubt it but I bet he would do it again if given the chance.


      • I don’t think the sport will end in 15 years but I have been commenting for a long time now on this blog that we are living in the time of peak football.

        It took about 100 years after the first organized game to be considered the most popular sport in America. It won’t drop off the sports map in less than two decades.

        But it is going to decline – just as some of the reasons it became popular were out of control of the stewards of the game – there are things that cannot control that lead to its decline.

        The sport’s popularity will decline more rapidly though if those charge do not make the game safer for the participants. Football is the only major sport that is completely dependent on US educational system for talent development. If the game is not made safer and public school systems and the University systems start to drop the game due to risks of class action suits or insufficient funding for catastrophic insurance then where does the NFL go for talent?


        • Sides

          Football is definitely at its peak popularity and looks to be still growing. It is tough to see the most popular sport (and growing) being dead in the next 20 years. I expect the sport to grow safer and evolve over the next 100 years.

          This doesn’t mean the sport popularity won’t decline. I was the biggest baseball fan in the world in the 1980’s and 90’s. I could probably argue it was the most popular sport in the country during this time. I have not watched a full professional baseball game (world series included) in about 5-7 years. I still love the sport and watch SC baseball but it is obvious that the sport is still in decline. I also believe someday it will regain popularity and maybe overtake football if it is not horribly mismanaged.

          Football may be dependent on the US education system but I don’t see that as a huge risk. Would UGA ever stop playing football? I don’t believe so. As long as the school gives out 85 scholarships per year then there will be players. I guess I don’t believe CTE and lawyers will destroy the sport.


      • I think it will decline because of litigation. If the plaintiffs’ bar had as much leeway in the early 20th century that it does now, the sport would already be history. I don’t man that to bash lawyers, but in this case, it’s the truth.


        • Macallanlover

          Yes, the lawyers will circle this new pig until it has little blood left and leave because it will not sustain their life style or ego needs. When I said football “as we know it”, it includes how popular it, and the money it generates every bit as much as how the rules change. When a game isn’t popular enough to draw 50K people or command live TV time, it will be “as we know it”. It’s decline is advancing rapidly with the legal actions that are gaining traction.


    • Russ

      Getting rid of kickoffs does nothing for the linemen that butt heads 70-90 times per game, and that’s where the real problem lies. Like the article says, the concussion issue is just as much a misdirection by the NFL to say “hey, we’re doing something” when it’s the additive effect of the non-concussive events that is the real culprit.


  5. 69Dawg

    Football will evolve like boxing did. As far as the economics of athletics it will become the team sport of last resort. If a kid can play basketball, baseball or potentially soccer if it’s popularity spreads, parents will steer the kids that way. When a kid comes from a poor economic background but doesn’t have the athlete ability to play the other sports they will play football.

    It may very well become an arena type game with less lineman. I don’t think people will pay big bucks to see 7 on 7 flag football. The damning part of the research is what is being done to the brains of offensive and defensive lineman who hit each other on every play. These guys are exactly like boxers who get punch drunk over time even if they don’t get knocked out. Constant jabbing to the head moves the brain enough to do a lot of long term damage.


  6. Football as we know it will be gone in ~20 years due to litigation and attrition from the bottom up.

    If I had to pick, I’d like to see it replaced by Lacrosse. Tons of scoring, fun to watch, still has some good hitting, yet has about half the concussion rate.


  7. Bright Idea

    If lawyers put football out of business they have eliminated an entire industry that they can sue.