I watched Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (yeah, I know he's a jerk, but the show is often worth watching) and they had a segment about brain injuries from playing football. Rather than discuss all of the issues they covered, I thought I'd ask how my fellow Alabama fans feel about this topic as it relates to the future of the sport we love.
Of course, football has always been a contact sport. However, now that coaches, players, and team doctors are so much more aware of the dangers of playing with a concussion, suffering one means you usually don't play again until you're cleared. Regardless, that's not the real issue here.
Rather than the big hits, doctors are now expressing more concern about the number of repetitive hits to the head that players at all levels take, particularly during practice. While a player might go his entire career (whether it ends in high school, college, or the NFL) without suffering a true (or diagnosed) concussion, it's the amount of helmet-to-helmet and helmet-to-ground contact made during practice that is garnering significant attention.
As the data in this area continues to be better understood, there are many people (and not just folks looking to make courtroom cash) who are expressing concerns about the long-term effects of continual hits to the head. I think we're all aware of the research underway concerning a possible relationship between concussions and suicide, brain damage, and diseases of the nervous system in former NFL players. However, if reasonable parents become concerned about their child sustaining permanent brain damage simply from playing in high school, there might be a significant decrease in the number of kids who play football at all. Should that happen, the sport most of us played and/or enjoy watching might face an uncertain future. The solution on Real Sports was less hitting in practice. I'm not sure how realisitic that is. Also, though helmet technology can protect the head and absorb some of the force of the hits, there's nothing that can keep the brain from moving around and making some degree of contact with the skull.
What do you think? Is there a real chance that the sport of football might be very different in two or three decades?