Mounting evidence for link between playing injuries and brain damage stirs debate
SUPERBOWL XLVII COUNTDOWN:President Obama and Baltimore safety Pollard create stir over comments
It has become a staple of Super Bowl week, as much a part of the pregame to the NFL’s biggest event as the annual media day: a discussion of how football is being affected by head injuries and the mounting evidence that long-term brain damage can be linked to injuries sustained on the field.
This week, Bernard Pollard, a hard-hitting safety for the Baltimore Ravens, created a stir by saying the NFL would not exist in 30 years because of the rules changes designed with safety in mind, but that he also believed there would be a death on the field at some point.
At a Super Bowl media day recently, players reacted to the comments made by Pollard and President Obama, who recently said the way football is played would have to change, with some agreeing with Pollard that recent rules changes would change the sport to such an extent it would be less entertaining and less popular.
Pollard stood by his comments. He added, however, that while he was comfortable with the physical risk he was taking by playing football, he was not sure he would want future generations, including his four-year-old son, to follow his example.
“My whole stance right now is that I don’t want him to play football,” Pollard said. “Football has been good to me. It has been my outlet. God has blessed me with a tremendous talent to be able to play this game. But we want our kids to have things better than us.”
No one is exempt
“You keep playing football, you’re going to have your injuries, no one is exempt from that,” he said. “You’re going to have concussions. You’re going to have broken bones. That’s going to happen. But I think for the most part, we know what we signed up for.”
The sentiment was echoed by Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco.
“I play the game and I understand that I’m going to get hit,” Flacco said. “Just because they fine the guys is not going to stop them from hitting me. I find it tough to fine people who are doing their job.”
In a recent interview with The New Republic, Obama expressed concern about on-field injuries, though he added that NFL players were grown men who are “well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies”.
The president added: “I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence. 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.”