By Ken Reed

In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt called university presidents from the college football powers of the day to the White House to address the growing concern among the American public over the dangers of football. The brutal game on campus was injuring — and killing — young men at an alarming rate. Roosevelt loved the game but feared it was on a course to be banned. Ultimately, what’s known today as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) came out of the meetings, as well as rule changes to make the game safer and the legalization of the forward pass to open up the game more. The New York Times‘ Gregg Easterbrook recently wrote an excellent piece on this subject.

Let’s face it. There’s too much money in football — at both the NFL and college levels — for the powers to be in the game to make any significant changes on their own. But significant change is exactly what’s needed. The evidence that football is extremely dangerous to the human brain has turned from a molehill to a mountain in the past two decades. And it’s not just concussions that are cause for concern but repetitive sub-concussive blows to the head which might lead to a debilitating brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Nobody but Roosevelt was going to push the football barons to act in 1905, and nobody but President Obama is going to get the football powers to take action today. At stake is the brain health of over 3 million boys currently playing tackle football at the youth level and 1 million plus playing high school football.

While changes definitely need to occur at the college and NFL levels, the societal focus now needs to be on our young people who are playing football at the youth and high school levels.

As Easterbrook writes, “In an education-based society, having millions of young people spending ever more time bashing one another’s heads can’t be good.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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