It's a tough year for the NFL. Last week, Pewaukee's own J.J. Watt suffered a season-ending fracture in his leg. The same week, NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. of the Giants broke his ankle. And this week it hits closer to home, with Aaron Rodgers possibly out for the season with a broken collarbone. Football injuries are nothing new, but these last three seem to highlight the inherent violence of the game. After all, all three injuries occurred on legal plays, with nothing much that could have been done to prevent them.
The whole debacle calls to mind a recent study released by the medical journal JAMA, which showed a very strong relationship between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative brain disease thought to be caused by repeated trauma to the head.
CTE can lead to memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression, anxiety, difficulty with impulse control and suicidal behavior.
The study tested 202 deceased former football players, including a combination of high school, college and professional players.
CTE was found in 99% of deceased NFL players' brains.
It was also found in three of the 14 high school players and 48 of the 53 college players.
The researchers will now be investigating factors such as exposure to head trauma, age of first exposure, length of playing careers and how these factors might affect the risk of suffering from CTE and its severity.
The NFL may be making some changes in the future as they see the numbers of kids playing drop significantly.
ESPN reported that Pop Warner, the nation's largest youth football program, saw participation drop 9.5 percent between 2010-12.
Without kids playing, learning, and loving football, you no longer have an NFL.
The NFL publicly acknowledged a connection between football and CTE in 2016, and recently paid out millions of dollars to retired players suffering from medical conditions caused by repeated head injuries. They've also claimed to pledge $200 million in support of medical research and neuroscience engineering.
Bill Pennington of the New York Time notes "the helmets are more technologically advanced. The footwear is improved. Equipment safety guidelines are intricate and enforced. There are far more doctors, including neurologists, on the sideline than ever. The athletic training staff resembles a small army. Video replay ensures that excessive or unnecessarily vicious hits that may not have been noticed initially can be penalized after the fact, even if it is days after a game."
And yet, it does not seem to be enough. At the end of the day, football is about tackling and blocking, and the sport is inherently violent.
So, what do you think?
Is it worse to be a "helicopter parent" who holds their child back from a game they love and the positive experiences that come with it?
Or is it worse to accept the risk of repeated head trauma and all of the scary symptoms that come with it?
The answer will be different for everyone, of course.
Some may choose to subtly cheer their child towards different sports, acknowledging that football is among the most violent sports out there. Others might kick the can down the road, figuring that football does not really get too dangerous until high school. And still others will simply root from the sidelines and hope for the best.
What will you do when your child asks "Can I play football?" Drop a comment below!