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February 16, 2015

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It's North Dallas Forty.

I don't know about the other people on that list, but Alex Karras did not in fact escape. He had dementia for many years and had joined the class action suit against the NFL shortly before he died.

Thanks, changed it. In pulling up the links, I learned that the book title is in reference to the fact that Dallas was, at the time Gent played, still a segregated city, with African Americans living in south Dallas, and whites living in the North, and it wasn't until Mel Renfro filed a lawsuit in 1968. The pattern is still largely there.

http://frontburner.dmagazine.com/2013/08/27/mapping-dallas-fort-worths-racial-divide/

Some links:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sports/concussion-watch/concussions-in-the-nfl-how-worried-are-you/

I recently heard a well-known sportwriter and lover of the game of football (can't remember who; must have hit my head too many times) retire himself from covering the game because he just can't any longer in good conscience.

I was surprised too to hear one of my best friends and fellow baseball warrior declare that his 9-year old son, who is a crackerjack athlete in three sports, will not play football past the 1arge of 12, when the hard hitting starts.

This Dad loves the game too and is as manly/macho as they come.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sports/concussion-watch/76-of-79-deceased-nfl-players-found-to-have-brain-disease/

This is going to be the death of football, I predict.

It will be a, long, agonizing death, along the lines of the death of the dirty high sulphur coal industry, or lead paint/gasoline industry, or maybe even the tobacco industry.

The business of football, including many of the participants, will put up a mighty fight.

Liberals will be blamed. The undeniable medical evidence building daily will be labeled a HOAX and the doctors and researchers carrying it out will be called frauds.

The concussion/dementia deniers will form their own lucrative industry and be funded and courted by all of the usual cash-rich, ideological suspects in this country.

The word "football" will be found by bogus constitutional scholars, recruited by the usual suspects, to be guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

It's too bad, but there it is.

I play baseball. The powers that be recently changed the rule about contact between a scoring runner and the catcher, following the near-career ending injury to Buster Posey a couple of years ago.

As a hard-nosed player myself on the base paths, I didn't like the change, but as a human being. I agree fully with it. Actually, the rule follows rules I play under in amateur baseball.

If beanings in baseball were as common as contact concussions in football, baseball would be under siege too. Recall, Don Zimmer and Tony Conigliaro, two high-profile beanings.

They were never the same players.

Luckily, beanings are rare. You can still be a Bob Gibson type of pitcher and miss the batter's head.

No doubt, the next frontier for the NRA pigs will be to get laws passed permitting football payers to carry loaded guns on their person onto the field, and let fans be armed too, and maybe gunshot wounds and fatalities will take the spotlight off concussions.

Someone should look into the incidence of dementia among the gun culture (not the one we had 40 years ago, the one we have now) and we can clean that sh*t up too.

It will be a, long, agonizing death, along the lines of the death of the dirty high sulphur coal industry, or lead paint/gasoline industry, or maybe even the tobacco industry.

I think it's going to be more like boxing, which has declined to near-irrelevance long before the recent revelations about TBI and post-concussion syndrome. It will become harder and harder to convince parents to get their children involved in the sport, and to convince players who might succeed in another game to give football a shot. That will lead to a decline in the quality of play, which will hurt the sport's popularity with spectators more than just the claims about what it does to players. Declining popularity as a spectator sport will feed into the decline in popularity as a participatory sport, which will lead to a spiral into irrelevance.

That whole process will take generations to complete, of course. Boxing is still hanging on after decades of decline, and I expect football to be equally resilient. If they can actually do something about the brain injury problem, it might even succeed in bouncing back before the decline become terminal.

Gotta say the Count is spot on on this one. I love watching football. But these days the only reason to play it is that you (and, while you are in school, your parents) are either a) determinedly ignoring the data on what it will do to you for the rest of your life, or b) it's the only path you can see out of the ghetto and abject poverty -- and an early death there, too.

Football is going to die. It is going to be a nasty death. And a lingering one -- especially in places like Texas where it is practically a part of the local religion. But it will eventually become just one more case of the government shutting down all that is good and right in the supposed interests of national health.

Forgot the /sarcasm tag after the last senetence. Sorry.

Achilles "chose glory over length of days," but he didn't have to deal with decades of agonizing pain and mental incapacity.

It's awful, and I say that as a fan of the game.

Short of changing the rules to prohibit any hitting at all, and essentially make flag football pro football, I don't know how the game can continue. Players and fans are already upset about the rules changes limiting certain hits.

American football could change:
http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/01/suggestions-for-safer-football/384890/

Though whether that would be sufficient is questionable.

No less a man's man and tough guy's tough guy than former player & coach Mike Ditka has said he wouldn't let his son play football today. That, folks, is what they call the Handwriting On The Wall. http://time.com/3673997/nfl-painkillers-mike-ditka-1985-chicago-bears/

If they can actually do something about the brain injury problem, it might even succeed in bouncing back before the decline become terminal.

Working against them:

-There's never been a strong evolutionary pressure for function stretching out into the later decades of life. While human bodies are actually incredibly resilient, the repair mechanism are built around keeping you alive until your offspring can fend for themselves, not around decades of peak function.

-We don't really understand much about the brain, or the etiology of disease...beyond, of course, that hitting it is bad.

But, working for them:
-TBI was a minor field of research a few decades ago, now there are substantial pots of money feeding into it (especially the military), and progress is being made. Research may reveal treatments to mitigate or prevent the long-term damage.

It's still a significant challenge. At the end of the day, it's very difficult to reduce the number and severity of hits while maintaining gameplay similar to its current form. But there are some things they could do:

-Make an earnest effort to reduce steroid use, which will reduce the severity of the hits.

-Reduce the number of games/snaps per player in a given season. I know that's always a point of contention between the league and players union, but I don't see why players couldn't be limited to fewer games than the team plays. The NFL could even extend the season, forcing teams to deviate from having the same starting line every game. I think it might even make the game more interesting, in addition to reducing the number of hits.

One of the simplest things that they could do: make the helmets heavier. (While keeping serious penalties for striking with the helmet, of course.) If the helmet is heavier, the inertia of the head system is higher, which means that the head (and hence the brain) feels less impact.

Those light plastic helmets they wear may keep scrapes and bruises down. But for protection against getting your brain banged around? Pretty much worthless.

If the helmet is heavier, the inertia of the head system is higher, which means that the head (and hence the brain) feels less impact.

Hey...these guys are getting so big and so fast that a full on helmet to helmet collision could conceivably reach critical mass. Have you thought of that, mr. smarty pants?

Hut, hut, hut.....;)

wj, think there are instances where your increased-inertia solution would work, but when helmets collide from opposite directions - with momentum increases offsetting inertial increases, or when the head hits the ground, which isn't giving much regardless of how much the the colliding mass resists negative acceleration (within the practical limits that would apply here), you end up with the same result.

(If they were running into springs, you'd be onto something!)

Certainly it's not a solution to the problem. In fact, I'm not sure that there is a solution. But I think it would be at least a small step forward. In a situation where the current approach seems to be "ignore it and maybe it will go away."

the inertia of the head system is higher

You may also run into a problem when the head isn't involved in the impact...the extra inertia could increase the forces exerted on the neck and spine.

On a more lighthearted note, a friend suggested the obvious solution: replace the players with robots.

I would watch that, and DARPA would likely fund it.

I don't know head inertia from the entropy of the universe, but helmet on helmet contact, or knee on helmet, or ground on helmet contact are only part of the picture.

When a receiver is tackled by one or more defenders his skull stops and/or whips around on his neck and inside that skull, the brain ricochets around like a grape in a tin can, banging and possibly bruising itself multiple times.

Repeat this action however many times over the playing life of a professional football player, from mid high school until retirement and see what happens.

I doubt it's not unlike Muhammad Ali being pummeled by Joe Frazier in the noggin a couple of dozen times a year for 20 years, instead of the several times they met in the ring.

Float like a ..... and .... what's the rest, Doc, I can't remember?

And consider that the teenage brain, iffy to begin with, isn't fully matured physically.

I don't know. Maybe arming either the offense or the defense, or both, would stop the weekly physical assaults.

What is the quarterback but a George Zimmerman patrolling what he claims is his territory against the suspiciously loitering Trayvon Martin rush.

Or vice versa. Depending on the witnesses from each hometown fan base.

Couple of gunshots the first game of the season, and I contend the contact problem will be fixed.

An armed football game is a safe football game.

Airborne drone football.

Course, after awhile, you'd have a rash of fan complaints regarding their neck vertabrae being out-of-whack for all the looking up three hours every Sunday.

What if they set the ball on the 50 and the teams lined up, but never moved? The team that the ball to the goal is the winner.

True men have the will to win.

So....show us.

The team that wills the ball to the goal is the winner.

-editor's correction.

Bobby, I like it. With all that money looking, if there are people on earth who can apply force remotely (psychokinesis), they will get found. Wheeeee!

Soccer may be at risk as well, although there the solution is just to eliminate the use of the head - as I think some youth leagues already do, at least in the U.S.

I doubt the NFL will go away, it will just become more of a gladiator sport than it already is.

Airborne drone football.

Quiddich. You'd need trustworthy AI for the bludgers and snitch, but I think it's the right solution to the Quiddich problem.

"I doubt it's not unlike ..."

I've taken a few shots to the head in my time.

This is one of the main topics covered in "X's and O's (A Football Love Story)," which examines the role of football in American society and the health consequences for the players and their families. I went to see it a couple of weeks ago. One of the actors is Dwight Hicks, who was another member of that '81 49ers championship team.

The number of head-on-head collisions in proper football is very small compared to handegg, though. I watched USA vs England in Milton Keynes the other day and I don't recall seeing a single one.

The number of head-on-head collisions in proper football is very small

Indeed - but there is a serious problem with players regularly heading the ball, which gives rise to similar TBI issues caused by repeated sub-concussive collisions in the American football offensive line.

Of course the solution is simple - banning the intentional use of the head.
I have little doubt this will happen within about a decade or two...

A similar debate is going on in Rugby Union:

http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/feb/11/rugby-concussion-tripled-three-years

http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2015/feb/13/bigger-fitter-faster-rugby-union-too-strong

banning the intentional use of the head.

That plan seems to work fine for congress. :)

Why ban something which does not happen anyway? Other than the great tradition of Congress making unnecessary rules to solve non-existant problems, of course.

Are you really claiming that heading a football is equivalent to an American Football tackle? That seems implausible. Is there any evidence for this?

I think the problem is in youth soccer, where kids maybe even below the age of 10 are heading as practice.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/does-heading-a-soccer-ball-cause-brain-damage/

We recommend that youngsters under the age of 14 not head the ball in soccer, not play tackle football and not full-body check in ice hockey. Impacts to the head are more damaging under that age, due to a number of structural and metabolic reasons. The brains of youngsters are not as myelinated as adult brains. [...]

Youngsters also have disproportionately big heads. By the age of five, their heads are about 90 percent of their adult circumference, but the neck has not nearly developed to that point. They have big heads on very weak necks and that bobblehead-doll effect means you don’t have to impact the head as hard to cause damage.

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