Monday, December 03, 2012

Football: Stick a fork in it?

Earlier this year, LeBron and I wrote about the end of football in Grantland. We speculated that it could take 10-15 years before football was knocked off its perch as the number 1 US sport.

New findings from Boston University make our scenario even more likely. Researchers there have found 28 previously unreported cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in deceased football players:

Previously, CTE had been found in 18 of the 19 former NFL players whose brains were examined. The 15 new cases in the BU study mean that of the 34 brains of former NFL players that have been examined, 33 had the disease. Linemen made up 40 percent of those cases, supporting research that suggests repetitive head trauma occurring on every play — not concussions associated with violent collisions — may be the biggest risk. BU also reported CTE in four former NHL players.

So, CTE is more prevalent than we thought and may well not be fixable by focussing on concussion avoidance or treatment.

The "end of football" is very much in sight.


paul said...

The abstract should correctly point out that all 34 players in the sample showed symptoms of mental illness. It is wrong to conclude that 33/34 NFL players have CTE.

What is the rate of CTE among non-NFL players with mental illness? Without this statistic, it's hard to know what to make of these results.

Michael Hamilton said...

This seems pretty easily fixable. Get crappier helmets.

Really nice helmets mean you can lead with your head, as we see every Sunday.

Zachary said...

I second weaker helmets.

Gerardo said...

Watch a rugby league game and that will pretty much disabuse you of the notion that no helmets is the solution.

Anonymous said...

You guys are going the wrong way with this. There's too much money and "spirit" to end football. Instead, we should accept the fact that football players are making a tradeoff between living a long time and a chance at fame and fortune. Let's ditch the protective padding, double roster sizes, and encourage steroid use.

Tom said...

Injury will not kill a popular sport. Recall boxing! Even if it kills occasionally (and I guess it does), the sport continues as long as the crowds come with their money.

Dirty Davey said...

Boxing is an interesting example. While it's not gone, it has had a major decline and is now a second- or third-tier sport where once it was at or near the top of the heap.

HOWEVER -- I think boxing's decline is not because of injuries but because of economics. Specifically, individual bouts can be quite short, and very few guaranteed during-the-fight ads can be sold. (I remember having watched the Larry Holmes-Marvis Frazier fight.)

Because of the limited ad money, boxing went quickly to PPV--which made money but prevented casual fans from seeing top fights. So casual fans turned to other things and the boxing fan population dwindled towards nothingness.

Whatever the injury findings, as long as football can still sell three hours of commercial time per game it's not likely to end up following boxing's path.

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Laura Goodwin said...

I think that in a few years time, basketball will emerge as the top sport in the country. Football events outside the Superbowl are experiencing low ticket sales and with the NFL having a high payroll. I don't see this league existing in the future