Last Sunday, Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was knocked down in the second quarter of a game against the Buffalo Bills and hit the back of his head on the turf. He lay there for a few seconds, then tried to stand up on wobbly legs then he collapsed, obviously slobberknocked. They took him into the locker room, then sent him out to play the second half, claiming he had passed the concussion protocol and that he had collapsed due to a leg injury, which anybody could plainly see was a lie.
Last night, against the Cincinnati Bengals, he was again knocked down and hit the back of his head. This time he lay motionless for several minutes and was carted off the field. Yeah, he's paid tens of millions of dollars and the glamor and the glory are obviously worth it to a lot of young men, but . . .
The list of former football players who have suffered from serious behavioral problems and dementia is far too long to even start. And you don't need to play in the NFL, or even big time college foobaw, to develop the disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. It can result from repeated small blows to the head which don't result in an apparent concussion, and those are an inevitable part of the game of North American Football. The helmet protects the scalp and the skull, but it doesn't protect the brain, that sloshes around inside the skull whenever there's a blow to the head. The helmet makes it more dangerous, not less.
Tua's a grown man so you may want to argue that he can make his own choices, although in this case the team doctor appears to have committed malpractice. But boys start playing football by the age of 8, and certainly 13. Of course there is some danger in all physical play and sport, but it's necessary to physical, emotional and mental development. Active and even rough play is part of being human -- or really any kind of mammal, they all do it. Sports are always going to come with injuries.
But it's a matter of degree, and of kind. Bruises, sprained or even torn ligaments, dislocated joints, broken bones, you can recover from. And one or two concussions in your lifetime probably aren't going to matter. But a high chance of irretrievably turning your brain to mush is another matter. We don't exactly know how high but the results of autopsies of former NFL players are extremely disturbing. Basically, 99% had TCE. There's no comparison group and families were not doubt morel likely to donate the brains if they had worries about the person, but still. And BTW, it was also found in 45 of 53 college players who never played in the NFL.
High schools and colleges all over the country have to do some serious soul-searching about this. It's long past time.