President Barack Obama, a self-proclaimed football fan, recently voiced his concern over violence in football, especially in college leagues. He said he would like to see the National Collegiate Athletic Association examine how it can deal with violent injuries, like concussions, that players can sustain.
"I tend to be more worried about college players than NFL players in the sense that the NFL players have a union, they're grown men, they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies," the president said in an interview with The New Republic. He said that if he had a son, he would think twice about letting him play the sport, and gradual changes should be made to make it more safe.
"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," said Obama.
Studies consistently show lasting damage and brain trauma is caused to football players who are repeatedly jarred on the field while being tackled. Lasting damage from repeated concussions can lead to depression and dementia, and the suicide rate for former NFL players is almost six times the national average. In a high-profile case last December, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and then shot and killed himself at the team's practice facility.
Studies have also found that former football players are more likely to have diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Former NFL players are three times more likely to die from a neurodegenerative disease as compared to the regular population. A study of 3,500 former football players showed that of the 334 that have died, such a disease contributed to 17 deaths.
In response to those findings, a representative for the NFL said the league understands the dangers players are exposed to, and they are committed to increasing the safety of the game:
The study underscores the continuing need to invest in research, education, and advocacy, strengthen and enforce our rules on player safety, and do all we can to make our game safer … We remain committed to doing all that we can to promote player health and safety.
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