As the NFL season starts, it’s important to look back on the twists and turns that happened in the offseason. We saw veteran players get cut, like LeSean McCoy to surprise blockbuster trades like Antonio Brown getting swapped from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Oakland Raiders.
However, the biggest surprise this offseason was when Andrew Luck, the star quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, announced his retirement from the NFL two weeks before the season kicked off.
Luck’s decision sent ripples not only in the Colts’ organization and the NFL, but also the world of sports in general. Luck’s retirement questions the physicality of the game, and whether the wear and tear football puts on players’ bodies make it actually worth playing the game. With football participation declining everywhere, from the youth level all the way to the collegiate level, it raises the question: does football have a future?
Football has been on the decline for many years now, and this is mostly due to the fear of long-term brain damage, among other injuries. Many parents today fear their child will be impaired for life after enduring inevitable injuries. They often steer their children away from football to try out other sports that aren’t as physically demanding: basketball, soccer, or lacrosse. Football has especially received attacks at the youth level, with many cities and states around the country trying to ban tackle football for children under 12 years old. Canada has already enacted this ban, and many US states are sure to follow. However, football is still the most popular sport in America, with over a million high school participants. The number of participants in football has declined over the past five years, with a 1.9 percent decrease in total participants according to an April article by Forbes.
Since I have played football for most of my life, I feel I have insider information on the concussion issue. Football has given me so much. The bonds I have formed alongside my teammates have become some of the greatest memories of my life. Football has also put in question my well being multiple times, as I’ve had my fair share of injuries and multiple concussions.
So should football be banned completely? No. It’s too popular of a game to be taken away from fans and players.
Not only that, but football has changed so many young kids’ lives for the better, whether that be through keeping them out of trouble, or paving them a path to college.
Should we take steps to make the game safer at all levels? Yes. The number one thing that needs to happen in order to quell the fears of concussions and CTE is to educate players on all levels of proper hitting and tackling technique, and to eliminate hits on “defenseless” players. The best equipment possible also needs to be made readily available for everyone of all age groups and all financial backgrounds in order to protect future players.
There should also be a sense of responsibility for the coaches as well, to notice if a player for their team takes a significant hit or shows signs of a concussion, that they take the player out for an evaluation to make sure they are fit to return to the game. This also goes for the parents as well. If they notice their child has concussion-like symptoms they should get them proper care.