With the release of Will Smith’s new film Concussion this week, we will no doubt witness all sorts of hand-wringing over the newly acquired knowledge of just how dangerous football is. The narrative surrounding concussions has become quite serious. Symptoms range from ringing in the ears to blurred vision to slurred speech, and according to some studies, concussions can even lead to dementia. These injuries ought to be treated with the utmost concern and analysis. NFL players are putting themselves at risk on every play and this is definitely a discussion that needs to be had nationwide.
My prediction? Not much will change.
Dudes will always be more than happy to smash their heads together as long as there is glory, fame and money involved. Let’s face it. The testosterone-prone gender has been tempting fate for centuries. We’ve been hunting buffalo, climbing cliffs, fighting fires, riding bulls, racing cars, and swallowing fire and we’re not going to stop anytime soon. Now we’ve even invented these things called wingsuits so we can jump off a cliff and use our bodies as human missiles. Some guys just love whizzing a few feet off the ground and high-fiving their buddies at 200 mph. We love dangerous activities, and football players are no exception.
“Guys do dangerous shit, and all in the name of either fun or money or both.”
However, NFL players are not the only ones who get paid to do dangerous things. In 2015, the most dangerous profession was being an airline pilot. The risks? They often suffer from stress-related health problems like insomnia, deep vein thrombosis, dehydration and high rates of skin cancer. Animal care workers have the second most dangerous profession, averaging 63 fatal and 12,500 nonfatal injuries a year. They only get paid around $15,000 a year; far less than an NFL player. Construction workers come in third on the list, facing the threat of falling, electrocution, or struck by objects. You get the idea. Guys do dangerous shit, and all in the name of either fun or money or both.
Is it any wonder that guys are willing to risk bodily injury in order to play the game they love AND get paid bank for it? Throw in the fame, the respect, the women. Throw in the challenge, the sweat, the glory. I imagine even cocaine cannot make you feel as good as making a diving catch in the end zone for a touchdown. Hearing 50,000 fans cheering for you is pretty damn addictive.
A lot has changed, however. The NFL recently suspended Odell Beckham Jr. for his egregious helmet-to-helmet no-no. Rules aren’t the same anymore. The NFL is cracking down and it’s not business as usual. In fact, it’s not business as usual anywhere. Pop Warner has seen a significant drop in participation, presumably due to negative publicity surrounding concussions and long-term brain injury. In fact, Dr. Bennet Omalu, famous for discovering CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), takes the position that kids shouldn’t play football until they’re 18.
But if we’re going down this road, then why stop at football? How many minors are hurling themselves down flights of stairs on their skateboards, breaking their wrists and smacking their heads? There is a long list of dangerous activities that kids and adults engage in, especially males.
“With all the publicity and new knowledge surrounding concussions, young football players have a choice to make.”
It’s not that we shouldn’t take precautions or try to make these activities safer. It’s just that humans are always going to take calculated risks. With all the publicity and new knowledge surrounding concussions, young football players have a choice to make. Do they still want to pursue a career as an NFL player, or would they rather do something safer like sit behind a desk and sell insurance?
My prediction is that a lot of dudes are still going to put on their pads and try out for the team. They want to play the game and they’re always going to engage in risky behavior, concussion or not. Sometimes it will be for the challenge and sometimes it will be to put food on the table. And sometimes it will simply be for the glory that comes along with doing something completely fucking awesome.