By Ken Reed
A couple weeks ago, it was learned that of a 111 brains of former NFL players examined, 110 had the serious brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is caused by repetitive blows to the head.
What didn’t receive much attention in this study was the finding that of the 53 brains examined of former college football players who never played in the pros, 48 were found to have CTE. That’s 91 percent of former college football players who never played a down of professional football.
Now that fact, raises an important question: Should institutions of higher learning be sponsoring an activity that clearly is harmful to the human brain?
“[C]olleges and universities sponsor the football teams we watch on Saturdays,” writes Fred Bowen of the Washington Post.
“The mission of these institutions is to develop and train the minds of their students. Should these schools be sponsoring a sport that may be damaging the brains of their student-athletes?”
The same questions could be asked of high schools and middle schools in this country, where the players have brains that are still developing. The sad truth is that many high school and youth football programs have more full-contact tackling practices than pro or college teams.
At the very least, all schools — from the college-level down — should eliminate full-contact practices during the week once the season starts.
The Ivy League has already done this and continues to set the standard in player safety.
“Shouldn’t college and universities think more about their football players’ health than the money they make from the sport?” asks Bowen.
The vast majority of college administrators will take a pass on that question.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.