October 5, 2017
It’s no secret that Americans love football. It’s a wildly entertaining sport with great teams and die-hard fans all over the country. What’s not to love?
Football is excitement, violence and surprise. Yet, these aspects of the game don’t only extend to football. Contact sports such as lacrosse and rugby almost always boast a higher number of fans and viewers than non-contact sports such as tennis, swimming and running. But all of this contact comes with a cost: over 650,000 injuries a year.
A study at Yale University recently found that if contact sports were converted into non-contact sports (such as flag football) there would be 49,600 less injuries at the college sports level and a whopping 601,900 less injuries among male athletes in high school. These injuries cost an estimated $20.7 billion per year. But it goes deeper than that, as it does not account for the long term damage done to the body after every injury.
In reality, $20.7 billion is a modest figure when we consider that one injury often leads to more. Multiple concussions and ligament tears can turn into a more serious condition over time, raising both the human and the financial expense of an injury. Despite having similar injury rates as college football, high school football causes the most injuries. There are currently 10 times more players in high school than college (one million versus 100,000).
To make matters worse, a lot of high school kids don’t receive proper coaching, leading to even worse injuries—including lifelong ones such as CTE. It is not uncommon to hear of middle-aged men who have knee or back problems ever since they played football in high school; that’s a whole lifetime of pain. Insurance for football players has become extremely expensive, and for a lot of private schools the cost of football is not worth pursuing.
In 1992, our school, like many others, decided enough was enough. We disbanded the team to focus our time and money on other sports and aspects of student life.
However, to the joy of many fans, the university still isn’t contact sport-free. We have thriving club hockey team and a club rugby team, even though rugby is believed to be more dangerous than football. Despite all the evidence of injury and medical costs, it will be hard to make football any less dangerous because that’s most of its appeal. At college football games, television production managers use parabolic microphones to capture the sounds of injuries such as “a head crack” because that’s what the audience wants.
It’s hard to make football less dangerous when the danger is the reason people are attracted to it. Like it or not, we keep watching because danger entices us.
Jay Mehta is a sophomore economics major