The Instability of Football
Less than a year ago, emerging NFL star Chris Borland retired from football. After a rookie season with more than 100 tackles, he was destined to be one of the next great NFL linebackers. But the 49ers’ player decided to give up the money and fame, because he was worried about his mental health problems down the road. Borland’s early retirement has marked a new age in football, where players are actually starting to rethink the repercussions of the game. His decision is a small representation of the larger problems at hand in football. As a result of the downsides that come with the sport, there are additionally declining numbers of participants. Therefore, despite the NFL’s popularity, football will eventually cease to exist as an organized sport because it is not physically or financially sustainable.
It is no secret that football causes injuries. This has been true since the beginning of the game. However, as of recent, an understanding of how detrimental it can be to one’s brain and body has come to light in large studies. A 2007 article published by The New York Times touched on how problematic the game can be to young players. According to the report, since 1997, fifty or more youth football players have experienced serious brain damage or died as a result of playing the game. In 2012, the Huffington Post added that the chances of NFL players being diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) or Alzheimer's is 4 times higher than the rest of the world. Studies like this make clear just how dangerous the sport of football is to its players. It shows how troubling football is to the body and how the world is coming to more knowledge of it. These statistics are just beginning to have an impact on the world of football and ultimately won’t help the game’s sustainability in the long run.
Injuries in football create a cause and effect system. As more people get injured, the more money it costs. This is due to rising insurance rates and increased costs to protect those kids when they are injured. Chris Fischer of WTSP in Tampa wrote, “The Florida High School Athletic Association mandates, each school has a medical base plan of $25,000 per athlete before the student can even step foot on to the field of play.” This information shows how pricey and expensive football is to run and handle. Not only does each player need to pay insurance to get on the field, but the school districts and teams need to also pay hefty sums to run games. As people continue to get hurt, insurance and costs to run a football organization are going to rise. As they grow, more teams, schools districts, and players will be unable to pay the fee and play.
All of these problems also force a lot of costly legal issues, especially in the NFL. ESPN’s Rick Reilly added to this notion in a 2013 article, when he touched on the gigantic lawsuit the NFL had just paid out. Because of their harmed brains, the league handed out about 765 million dollars across more than 4,500 former NFL players. The hefty costs will surely not cease with these retired professionals, and might even begin at the high school and college level. The NFL can handle the lawsuits, but will smaller organizations be able to give out millions of dollars? Regardless, people will continue to ask for money as compensation for their damaged brains and it does not bode well for football.
At the same time, the world is becoming better informed about football today and the injuries and legal matters that go along with it. In a recent poll by HBO Real Sports and the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, it was documented that 86% of adults noticed a connection between concussions (a common occurrence in football) and long-term brain trauma. Due to the influx in price and injuries, parents, teams, and players are starting to rethink if the game is worth it. According to The New York Times, in the past five years, football participation in high school has fallen by 2.4 percent, despite the rise of overall high school students. Furthermore, the Press Herald of Maine added that football in its state has decreased by a whopping 14 percent from 2006 to 2014. All of this shows how football is beginning to decline in number of players. Who knows how long it can sustain the information spilling out about injuries or the increasing amount of money it costs to play the game. However, if the sport cannot do anything to solve these problems, it seems as if participation in football is going to keep slowly declining.
Although football is still one of the most popular games in the United States, it is significantly descending. According to the International Business Times, 114 million TV sets in 2015 were turned into the 2014-15 Super Bowl. But if fans stop and look past the NFL’s success, they would realize that the game doesn’t only have professional teams, but smaller organizations that cannot afford the costs of football. The NFL has made large amounts of income to help support their cause, but they are an extreme outlier. Paying for millions of dollars worth of lawsuits and regulations may not be a possibility for high schools or PeeWee football teams. Therefore, football is sure to have trouble in the future and some day it may just be history.
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