Early in March, the retirement of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland from the sport brought to the fore how much people do not know about the game’s effects on its athletes. Borland cited concerns about head injuries as his reason for retiring at age 24, saying that he wanted to live a longer life and that he doesn’t want any neurological disorders and increased risks of dying young.
Indeed, while hundreds of athletes bump heads when they play contact sports, the fact remains that medical science still does not know the full extent of the damage to the athletes. What is known right now is that some players have emerged from the sport with brain damage.
The topic of brain damage, however, remains a controversial one. Joseph Maroon, an NFL-affiliated doctor, has said that all the attention given to the dangers of football—especially youth football— may be an exaggeration. While there are areas where the sport can improve in terms of safety, Maroon asserted that young people are more likely to face more risks when riding a bike or a skateboard.
Critics say that Maroon may be downplaying the dangers of football. The questions raised by the public require answers. Has American football turned into a too dangerous sport for its players? Is there a need to rethink and change how the game is played? How should governing bodies step in and prevent further harm from befalling the athletes? Evidently, more research is needed in order to identify how exactly athletes sustain brain damage as they play the game, and the safety of all should be the primary concern of those governing the sport.