Monday, January 28, 2013

President Obama on Football

The President was asked by The New Republic about football. He commented on the violence of the game and the fact that he would "have to think long and hard" about it. I say good for him and I totally agree.

I was a pretty good high school football player, and I enjoyed playing. But I had my share of injuries, including stingers where my arm went numb and I played through. I never suffered a concussion, but am sure I played with concussed players. I still have knee, back, and neck issues as a result of playing. Fortunately, I was a starting player who played for a winning team - but most players aren't as fortunate.

As much as I love football, and as much as I enjoyed my high school experience, I don't want my son to play. I won't prevent him from playing high school football if he wants to and he is good enough to make the team, but I am not going to sign him up for youth football and I will actively discourage him from playing. Too much risk in my opinion.


j, k, and s's d said...

It's an interesting topic as there has been much more discussion regarding concussions and CTE related to football particularly with the deaths of Seau, Duerson, Mike Webster, etc.

No question it is a violent game. It's interesting how the players defend the game. Bernard Pollard came out a couple of days ago and said that football won't be around in 30 years as fans will stop watching because of how they are changing the game to be more safe. I doubt that people will stop watching. Still, it is interesting to hear current players defend the game.

Ed Reed mentioned recently that he agrees with Obama and wanted to be part of the process to make it more safe. However, he seemed to not be talking so much about the rules but rather the training/equipment rooms and more along those lines.

Again, football is an inherently physical sport. I believe to make it to that level, it requires a dedication of toughness and level of controlled violence and aggression.

What I think has to change is more the mentality and culture of football. This means at ALL levels. Too often guys get hurt and they are pressured by their teammates, coaches, fans, and themselves to continue playing. This happens all the time (see RG3). I do like what the NFL has done regarding concussions. However, this should extend to all injuries.

I remember playing football as well and seeing guys get hurt and teammates telling them to get up and keep on playing and if they didn't questioning their toughness. I also remember coaches not dissuading this type of behavior. That is the culture that is taught. That needs to stop. If a guy is hurt or if he struggling with the heat, they need to stop.

I have seen guys throw up and cry and crumble in sprints done at the end of practices. Those guys were made fun of. It's a fine line between pushing guys to be/do their best and pushing them to the point of injury or worse.

It's a tough call because the very same culture I am saying needs to change is the culture that makes great football players.

It's also interesting that with all the studies out there on concussions and CTE that the NFL has commercials with some of their biggest/most marketable stars (Tom Brady and Ray Lewis) discussing the safety of football and promoting it to young players.

With guys getting bigger, stronger, faster over the years, it will be interesting to see where this is headed. I remember the original Hogs were considered huge but today they would be considered grossly undersized. There is no way Jeff Bostic could play in today's NFL at his size. A 300 lb. lineman was considered the exception back then. Today, you have high school kids at 300 lbs. It's amazing.

Again, will be interesting to see where this is headed.

Rob said...

I think there will be changes in equipment that will make a difference. For example, it seems to me that changing the shoulder pads and helmets to more of a "foam" type material would help. They need to be able to absorb energy, but not be so hard such that they can be used as weapons.

There is an interesting piece in the Post today (I think by Mike Wise) about the mixed messages in football between the violence and safety aspects that you are getting at in your comment.

I love watching football, and I enjoy some great memories from playing, but like I said, I will do everything I can to dissuade my son from playing organized football at any level.

j, k, and s's d said...

Not sure what equipment changes would help. Foam padding wouldn't help much when a WR gets blindsided on a crossing pattern over the middle by a 250 lb. LB.

Seems like most of the devastating injuries are head and neck related resulting from hard hits. Again, with guys getting bigger, stronger, and faster, not sure foam padding will do much.

The other significant injuries are to knees and again with guys getting bigger and stronger and having to cut sharp on uneven surfaces carrying the weight that they carry, bad things will happen. Same thing when guys get hit in the knees, doesn't matter what you are wearing.

I am not sure what equipment changes can help.

It IS interesting that guys seem to be shedding equipment to be quicker and faster. Even linemen are removing thigh and knee pads to help move. T. Williams suffered his deep thigh bruise as a result of not wearing thigh pads. Seems like most WRs and DBs go without any leg pads.

Not sure what the answer is. Again, I would say the number one thing would be to change the culture. I know players don't like that. I know they try and hide concussion symptoms as they are afraid of being diagnosed and being mandated to pass a battery of test that might result in them missing game(s) but to me that would be a start. The NFL and every other league from youth to the pros should be more precautionary with injuries and err on the side of caution as opposed to calling players toughness into question.

If guys felt protected by rules and regulations, eventually their toughness would not come into question and hopefully decisions on playing would become easier.