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President Obama examines the safety of the NFL

Roger Caldwell

President Obama examines the safety of the NFL

By Roger Caldwell

     I am writing this column on the eve of the Super Bowl, and I am hoping that the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers. Both teams have high-powered offenses and hard hitting defenses. The two teams are coached by the Harbaugh brothers, and the game is filled with drama, because Ray Lewis is playing his last game, and he wants to go out as a winner.

    Men and woman love the sport and the Super Bowl attracts a worldwide audience, and the revenue it will generate that day is in the billions. President Obama admitted that he is a big football fan, and I am sure he likes to brag about which team will win. There will be millions of Super Bowl parties and on Monday many folks will call out, and others will not be in shape to work.

    Nevertheless, there is a dark side to the most violent sport in the country and it has been covered up by the NFL. More than 2,000 retired NFL players have filed 80 lawsuits against the league seeking damages for head injuries sustained on the field. There are also many retired NFL players addicted to pain killers and other drugs as a result of playing the sport. Finally there are many players whose bodies have been destroyed with constant pain, and they have had 20 operations on different body parts.

Violence is one of the ways Americans get excited, and football is a way to go to war, but no one actually dies. You may get knocked out, or break a few bones, but only a few have died, and that was a mistake.

    In an interview with The New Republic Magazine, the President Obama expressed concerns about the dangers of playing football. President Obama said, “If he had a son he would have to think long and hard before I let him play. 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. In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much.”

    President Obama is telling the truth about the sport, but I wonder how many of the fans actually examine their feeling about the violence in the sport. Americans have learnt to enjoy the violent component of the sport and they expect violence to be a part of the sport. A recent survey revealed that 9 out of 10 dads who played football at the high school level or higher, and suffered a football related concussion want their children to play tackle football.

    This survey is extremely frightening because more than 66 percent of dads polled indicated that if their son had a concussion they would let him continue to play tackle football, after he was healed. Football is ingrained in our consciousness and there is a need to transform the thinking of athletes, coaches, and fans, and begin to make this a safer sport.

    There is a 10-year $100 million initiative, called the Harvard Integrated Program to Protect and Improve the Health of NFLPA Members that will address active and retired players. “The study is aimed at improving NFL player’s health and further understands the sport risks, and the entire athlete,” says Lee Nader, the medical dean.

President Obama is right when he ask the hard questions about the sport. There is no way that the sport will be completely safe, because of the nature of the game, but owners and coaches can work to protect their players and limit head trauma. Go Ravens!      




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