By Ken Reed

Junior Seau’s suicide has spurred conversations throughout the sports world about whether football can survive in its present form. Andy Staples writes that “given everything we’ve learned in the past few years about the brain damage caused by repeated trauma, the immediate reaction is to point the finger at football … It’s the mounting evidence that repeated shots to the head could be slowly killing football players. Even if it had nothing to do with Seau’s death, football has lost the benefit of the doubt. Every time a far-too-young ex-player dies after suffering some sort of mental distress, football will be the prime suspect.”

A powerful “stop and think” article written recently by economists Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier entitled, “What Would the End of Football Look Like?” paints a death scenario for football that isn’t so far-fetched.

According to Cowen and Grier, pre-collegiate football is already sustaining 90,000 or more concussions each year.

“If ex-players start winning judgments, insurance companies might cease to insure college and high schools against football-related lawsuits,” wrote Cowen and Grier.

Various reputable observers and analysts are predicting the end of football as we know it anywhere within the next 5-20 years. The demise will likely start with high school football. As the evidence continues to pile up on the short-and-long-term damage resulting from concussions — along with sub-concussive brain trauma — a MADD-like group of parents could very well form calling for the end of football — as they pull their children from the sport. Other parents would likely follow their lead. They will raise the question, “Why should educational institutions sponsor an activity that turns young brains to mush?” But the big blow to high school football will most likely be of financial origin: insurance companies saying “No more!” to high school football.

“This slow death march could easily take 10 to 15 years,” continued Cowen and Grier. “Imagine the timeline. A couple more college players — or worse, high schoolers — commit suicide with autopsies showing CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). A jury makes a huge award of $20 million to a family … Soon high schools decide it isn’t worth it.”

Don’t think a scenario in which football is marginalized is possible? Ask your grandfather about the time when boxing was second in popularity to only baseball in this country …

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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