In the court of public opinion, it has been a very bad week for the National Football League, but one secondary story of the week should also get major attention. NFL players as they get older face a multitude of health problems from the game itself.
The boys of fall don’t necessarily face an easy time as they head to the autumn of their years according to a new study which finds that former NFL players between 50 and 59 develop Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia at a rate between 14 and 23 times the general population and 35 times the rate for those between 60 and 64. That’s not too startling a development if you talk to former players who are willing to share their experiences. Most are reluctant to do so.
But that study was confined to former NFL players. No study has been done on the lasting impact of football from those who just played in high school or those who were just high school or college players. That population has not been tracked and this latest study needs to be taken very seriously by those who are in charge of youth football and school administrators around the country.
The NFL probably will not see any damage on the league level but the league’s feeder system could be impacted. At some point, school districts which are already struggling with expenses and cutting non-core programs will have to decide whether the costs in insurance and the injuries suffered by youth and teenager players will be worth the cost. Football participation is already down in the youth levels and the NFL and other football interest groups are is trying to make the case to mothers that the game is safe and builds character among the boys and makes men out of them.
This is not necessarily new ground for the football industry. President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905 used the bully pulpit to clean up football after players died on the field. How much safer the game became because of President Roosevelt is debatable but as more and more medical studies are released, it is becoming apparent that football may have to be labeled as potentially harmful to a players’ health.
This article was republished with permission from the author, Evan Weiner. The original article was published in Sports Talk Florida and can be viewed by clicking here.