Sunday, February 7, 2016

Will Football Ever Be The Same?

Tonight's Super Bowl features an intriguing matchup of the old versus the new guard.  Quarterback Peyton Manning, soon to turn 40, leads his experienced Denver Broncos against 26 year old quarterback Can Newton and his Carolina Panthers.  Denver and Manning went to the Super Bowl just three years ago, losing in a blowout to Seattle 43-8.  Carolina hasn't been to the Super Bowl since 2004 when New England quarterback Tom Brady engineered a last minute drive that led to an Adam Vinatieri field goal and a Patriots victory over the Panthers.

Oddly that great game, one of the few Super Bowls decided by a last minute drive, is more known for
Picture from
what happened at halftime, namely  the infamous Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction."

I have the erie sense that this Super Bowl, number 50 or L if you're still using Roman numerals, may be the end of an era.  In September 2015, researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University announced that they had identified chronic traumatic encephalopathy in 87 of 91 (96 percent) deceased NFL players that they had examined and in 79 percent of all football players. 

No amount of precautions against concusssions can fix the problem with CTE.  CTE is caused by repeated blows to the head that can fall well below concussion level.   The symptoms of CTE include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, agression, depression anxiety, and, eventually, dementia.  These symptoms often show up decades after the football player stops playing.

It doesn't appear there is any way around CTE.  Better designed helmets do not eliminate the problem. 

The pipeline to the NFL is made up of youth leagues, high school and college.  It is only a matter of time before worried parents start putting their kids into sports other than football.  Eventually that pipeline is going to dry up and the popularity of football, no longer a participatory sport for many people, will wane.

So celebrate tonight's Super Bowl. Football may never be the same starting tomorrow.


LamLawIndy said...

Doubtful, Paul. Given the million$ that football players make, I think it's fair to say that some parents & players will view the risk of CTE worthwile in exchange for the money.

Anonymous said...

"... The symptoms of CTE include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, agression, depression anxiety, and, eventually, dementia....". I often observe these same symptoms in people past the age of 40 who never played football(but not all of them).

Paul K. Ogden said...


I don't know...when you get to 96% that not so much a risk as a promise. The average NFL players career is so short too, and it is the worst paying major sport. I think given a choice between the NFL and MLB, it's a no