Out in the field, football players touch down with a veneer of invincibility, tackling each other like it’s nothing to them. In reality, they are in for more health hazards than other athletes. Even President BarackObama was famously tongue-in-cheek about his doubts on the safety of the sport: “I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football. And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence,” he says.
Even mentioned in the same breath as Syria and gun violence, American football hasn’t helped its own image with what the public perceives as the NFL’s weak response to player Ray Rice’s domestic violence scandal. So it’s starting to look as if apart from exposing players to field violence, football also breeds violence at a personal level.
As a great tradition, Americans might be hard pressed to give up on its own version of football. However, the health risks associated with the sport are receiving due attention. It has been reported that football players suffer chronic pain and mental illness even long after their careers had wrapped up.
Harvard University even devoted a study slash intervention on the medical conditions suffered by former NFL players in a bid to improve their health and well-being. The conditions highlighted by the study are concussions, brain injury, and even myocardial dysfunction. The study also taps former professional players to lead surveys and discussions.
Football may be fun to watch, but it has to be accompanied by health interventions for players who may have been paid well during their careers, but give up so much in return.