We’ve long known that there are benefits to playing football, like any organized sport. The gridiron may be the world’s best classroom for teaching teamwork, communication, hard work, and goal-setting. I’ve carried those lessons throughout my life, and so has my son. It’s provided him an exceptional college education and molded him into a young man of confidence and discipline. Those benefits have to be balanced against the risk of brain injury. Coaches and teams have gotten better at monitoring the health of their players, which has resulted in a 35% reduction in concussions since 2012, according to the league’s Health and Safety report this year. With dozens of rule changes to protect players, a new “medical time out” option and additional studies of new technologies to reduce injury, it’s never been safer to play professional football. And the youth game, too, is following suit.
For young players, there is a focus on the immediate consequence of the injury. The symptoms of concussions make it dangerous for players to return to the game, and they may interfere with basic daily living, including academics. That alone is reason to follow guidelines closely. I know many Americans like me and my family love playing and watching football. While we need to be more vigilant in protecting players and being aware of concussions, we shouldn’t stop those who enjoy the sport from participating.