Would You Sacrifice Your Brain for Your Career?

One of the most public and (recently) controversial career paths is American football. Players begin as toddlers and move into high school and college teams, often suffering from rough play along the way.

But when is it too much? In recent weeks, football has been in the eye of public criticism for the domestic abuse running rampant among players; but the crisis that not many are aware of is the concussion crisis currently causing young players to retire early.

Many aren’t aware of Chad Stover, a young football player who died after a brain injury on the field last season. Time Magazine recently covered the concussion crisis in football, asking if football was "worth it." Many players are saying no.

Two college football players recently retired early due to head injuries while playing. Texas Longhorn quarterback David Ash retired after dealing with the effects of multiple concussions, his coach announced on Wednesday. While he’ll remain on the team, you won’t see him on the field.

University of Connecticut’s quarterback Casey Cochran is also retiring due to multiple concussions throughout his college football career. He’ll remain involved with on-campus athletics, but you won’t see him on the field, either.

The NFL is notorious for dismissing issues like these. The NFL has brushed off major concerns about the mental health and sustainability of the atmosphere of football in the past. Recently, however, the NFL admitted that one third of individuals who play football, especially professional or college football, or who retire from football suffer long-term cognitive problems at much younger ages than individuals who do not play football.

5,000 former NFL players took to the courtroom to sue the NFL, stating that the NFL had hidden the dangers of concussions from them.

Not many of us are faced with careers in which physical injury is a serious--if not expected--risk. And it takes a lot of dedication and passion to sign up for a career where you know you’re going to get hurt at some point.

Scientists and researchers have claimed for decades that playing football can increase the risk of developing neurological conditions. The NFL hasn’t made a clear agreement until just recently.

Chris Nowinski, the executive director of the Sports Legacy Institute, who pressured the league for many years to acknowledge the connection between football and brain diseases and injuries, said:

“This statement clears up all the confusion and doubt manufactured over the years questioning the link between brain trauma and long-term neurological impairment. We have come a long way since the days of outright denial. The number of former players predicted to develop dementia is staggering, and that total does not even include former players who develop mood and behavior disorders and die prior to developing the cognitive symptoms associated with C.T.E.”

A lawyer for the NFL stated that these findings were based on diagnoses given to the 5,000 former players suing the NFL, so those findings were inflated.

What do you think? Is the NFL hiding the dangers of concussions and head injuries from its players? What of the ever-evolving football helmet? Will we ever see one that is effective at protecting the brain?

Creative Commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by COD Newsroom.