Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity


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Concussed: Is it Ethical to Continue to allow our Youth to Play Football?

Concussion, the recently released movie starring Will Smith, was a hit in theatres, however it also served to bring light to the NFL’s “dirty little secret”. Increasingly overwhelming evidence  shows that if you play the game of football long enough, you are increasingly likely to suffer from long-term brain injuries. Recently, disturbing evidence came to light:

“A study that will be presented at next week’s American Academy of Neurology (AAN) meeting offers one of the most conclusive pieces of evidence yet of a definitive link between brain injury and playing football.

It shows that “more than 40 percent of retired National Football League players … had signs of traumatic brain injury based on sensitive MRI scans called diffusion tensor imaging,” according to a press release from the AAN.” (Washington Post 2016)

Junior Seau, Adrian Robinson and Dave Duerson ended their own lives. Javon Belcher killed his girlfriend and then himself. Jim McMahon sometimes forgets his name. All showed signs of CTE (a form of brain damage). These are only a few of the known sufferers in a long line of former NFL players suffering from head trauma, and there is likely unfortunately many more who will come to light. Some, unfortunately, will likely be in the form of tragedy.imrs

These sobering cases raise ethical and moral questions regarding the sport of football. We in North America are obsessed with football: whether it be watching the NFL, playing fantasy football,  or playing/watching high school or college football. It is a point of local pride to play high school football and the dream of many young football players to play at the college level. This dream becomes the obsession of many in the pursuit of playing professionally. However we need to question the morality of encouraging our youth to partake in a sport where there is almost guaranteed chance of injury and significant change of long-term brain damage.

Speaking from playing high school and CIS football, there is nothing quite like it. I’ve played baseball and hockey at fairly high levels and had the opportunity to play in front of large crowds and in some incredible venues and locations (The MetroDome in Minnesota, The stadium used in “A League of their Own” in Indiana, The Rogers Centre in Toronto, played one game for the Canadian Junior National Baseball Team in front of 1000 people in my hometown). However, there just isn’t anything quite like running out under the lights on a Friday night and playing football in front of hundreds or thousands of people. The adrenaline rush is unparralelled. So i can understand why parents and coaches want youth to experience the game of football, it has taught me some incredible life lessons and provided me with countless memories.

However, I also know that i’ve been concussed at least 3 times from helmet to helmet contact playing football, probably more. I’ve separated my shoulder three times, dislocated it twice and  had surgery to repair a torn labrum and it still aches every day. I tore every ligament and the cartilage in my ankle which required major surgery and now clicks when i walk. Some of my fingers are crooked and i have countless scars. I’ve watched my brother, a gifted linebacker who was being heavily recruited to play university football, tear the same ACL and MCL twice in his right knee. I’m not sure of the long-term effects that these injuries will have on me as time progresses, but I view the injuries as a blessing in disguise, forcing me out of the sport before more serious damage was done. Yes football is an incredible sport that can serve to provide structure and an outlet for youth, but at what cost? When do we draw the line as more and more research showing the negative effects of the sport come to light?

I truly believe we need to question whether, given its current state, it is ethical to encourage youth to play football and provide it in our schools. However, as long as the NFL and NCAA football exists and continues to thrive, market forces will continue to push children into playing football. So perhaps the real issue is the commercialization of sport, which provides ever increasing monetary incentives for youth to “chase the carrot” so to speak. Perhaps the issue is more socio-economic, maybe bridging the ever increasing gaps in social classes would reduce the need of impoverished young athletes to relentlessly chase the dream of playing professionally.Maybe we need to consider how we play football, the increasing size and speed of the athletes is making it harder and harder to avoid devastating collisions. Medical research, according to the Washington Post (2016), suggests that the repeated collisions involved in football drastically increase the probability of long-term brain damage. Yet local communities glorify their high school football players and college and professional players are idolized.

None of these solutions are clear cut, nor are they intended to be. This blog is to serve to start the discussion on whether or not allowing our youth to play football is morally right. The recent, very public issue of CTE and its relation to the NFL is an encouraging start, as the beginning of any effective change almost always starts with dialogue, which this has facilitated. This has resulted in an increased focus on player safety, which is encouraging. But until the game itself changes, it doesn’t seem likely that these issues will cease, and as more data becomes available, the severity of these issues will only increase.

References

Andrews, T. (2016, April 12). 40 Percent of NFL Players suffer from Brain Injuries, New Study Shows. Washington Post. Retrieved November 1, 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/04/12/40-percent-of-former-nfl-players-suffer-from-brain-damage-new-study-shows/


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A sports editor’s vision for the future of football

As a graduating undergraduate in RSS, an article I would recommend reading is:

http://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/A-sports-editor-s-vision-for-the-future-of-6150477.php

We all know that concussions have become a major problem in professional sport but yet there is so much fear about changing the game that we are willing to risk lives and well being for our own entertainment. This article really sheds some light on different ideas that can help change football to make it safer. It will be something that RSS professionals will have to think about if they want to keep the sport, and their athletes alive.
I think that both hockey and football will have to make a change to start protecting their athletes. In my opinion the change has to come from the media. They are the ones that highlight the fights and the hits but yet they are also the ones sharing the stories about how athletes are getting injured and aren’t able to play anymore because of concussions. If they started to focus more of the game and the technical skill rather than the hits and injuries then maybe one day we will be able to have the game the author envisioned.
Personally I loved the controversial topic of taking away some of the padding and helmets to reduce how much an athlete will use their head as a weapon. It is a tough decision though because I think of it like driving a motorcycle. When you take away the protection of the car frame, some people become more cautious because they don’t have the protection, on the other hand you have the reckless people that it doesn’t matter anyway and i think in football it could go either way. Clearly athletes are willing to risk it all for the game.
There is no perfect solution to this problem of concussions and changing sport. It is something that needs to be discussed though, especially with RSS professionals because something will eventually have to change if we want athletes to live. We need to throw ideas out there, as crazy and as controversial as they come so that it gets people talking and makes society more aware of the problem. If we aren’t coming up with new ideas or trying to find a solution then this issue isn’t going to get any better and I think we owe it to the athletes to say that we value their lives over a game.


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Analysis of New Brunswick Football: Where We Were, Where We Are, And Where We Are Heading

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Tackle football has a complex system in its delivery to the community. The system is comprised of organizations that help in this delivery of the sport from all levels in which athletes play football in. The purpose of this the presentation was to map out the delivery system of football in the province of New Brunswick (NB) by identifying player pathways through football and the governments influence on football through policies. For a summary, the main points of interest will be detailed below. The overarching question is how does the NB football system function and how successful is it at producing athletes?

Football in NB is in an interesting phase in that expansion of the sport has been at large in the last five years. The addition of the new collegiate Atlantic Football League (AFL) has been a great addition to the football delivery system in NB as UNB now hosts two AFL teams. What is more, the AFL has been shown to be a potential site for talent recognition by the CFL, although no one has been officially drafted (Two college athletes have been scouted at Holland College).

Also, NB has been shown to do very poorly in pushing talented athletes to the higher levels of football in the CIS. In 2013, the presence of NB footballers in the CIS throughout Canada was 35 men in total (This is extremely low in comparison to mostly all provinces). The CIS in 2014 had 45 football players from NB; a respectable increase of NB presence around Canada by 10 men. What is more, through analysis, many of these NB football players team roster profiles show a theme that many NB football players have played on the new provincial football team which was introduced in 2012. Perhaps the increased presence of 10 NB football players in the CIS from 2013-2014 is due to the addition of provincial football to the delivery system?

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