Does the growing awareness of traumatic brain injury put the future of football at risk?
I love watching Michigan football on Saturday afternoons. To me, it is the perfect way to spend a day. But I wonder if my grandchildren will watch Michigan football. Not because they will grow up to be Michigan State fans or – heaven forbid – Ohio State fans. The problem lies within the sport itself, and the new awareness of the serious risks it poses to the people who play. Something is going to have to give as the dangers become more known. The question is what that is going to be.
The problem is I know all about these risks. I am a lawyer who helps people with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) for a living. I speak at seminars to other lawyers on TBI in Michigan and all over the country. I even helped participate in one of the earliest focus groups when certain TBI lawyers were contemplating suing the NFL. And I’ve helped and watched other attorneys who I know across the country bring lawsuits when coaches have knowingly put young players with concussions back in the game.
There is a disconnect between what I know to be true about the science and the sport that I love to watch. I love the sport, but more and more I am troubled by the thought that so many players on the field will be suffering from early dementia, severe depression and all sorts of related problems due to repeated traumatic brain injuries on the field.
With the size and the speed of the game today, it can’t be helped. It becomes a matter of odds. Not if, but when.
With each new imaging study or autopsy of the brain of one more player who died prematurely, it is becoming more uncomfortable for me to watch the sport. It may take one more generation, maybe two, but I really wonder how many people are going to be filling the 110,000 seating capacity at Michigan stadium one day?
George Will recently put it far better than I could, speaking about the dangers of modern day football. Here’s an interview between Will and George Stephanopoulos.
And an excerpt from Will’s Washington Post column:
“Football is entertainment in which the audience is expected to delight in gladiatorial action that a growing portion of the audience knows may cause the players degenerative brain disease.”
– Steven M. Gursten is a Michigan brain injury lawyer at Michigan Auto Law. He is a member of the Executive Board of the American Association for Justice Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer Litigation Group. Steve has received the highest reported trial verdict and settlement for a TBI victim in Michigan in multiple years, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly.
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