The latest health and safety news around football — and other sports:
* As Alabama prepares to play Notre Dame in the BCS national title game, AL.com opened a four-part series by asking if the NCAA is doing enough to combat concussions.
The NCAA, in citing examples of being proactive, points to its playing rules changes through the years, $400,000 of funding to study head impacts in all sports, and a requirement that every school has a concussion-management plan. The NCAA is being sued by some former athletes who claim the NCAA has been negligent about head injuries, and an ex-Bowling Green football player has a similar suit against his former university.
“We’re going to look at all of these variables, whether it’s equipment, limiting the impact or making sure athletes are cleared to play, so we’re making the game safer as we move forward,” said Dave Klossner, NCAA director of health and safety. “Everything’s on the table. We’re sort of in the infancy stage of this science.”
* ThinkProgress.org called Jadeveon Clowney’s iconic hit in the Outback Bowl the problem with the culture in football.
The very fact that the hit was a “pure demonstration” of football’s “truest nature,” though, illustrates exactly what is so scary about the future of football: we’ve spent the last year focused on the threat concussions pose to the future of the game, but the real threat may be the game itself, the risk routine hits even less powerful than Clowney’s pose to the brains of the young men who step on the field each weekend. That, as Bloomberg’s Jonathan Mahler argued last month, “Football doesn’t have a concussion problem. It has an existential one.”
Clowney’s hit didn’t cause a concussion, and so it seems just a routine part of the game. But focusing on concussions as the major source of brain injuries in football, as Mahler argued, makes us think the problem can be fixed relatively easily. It makes it seem as if improving how we monitor concussions when they happen and eliminating head-to-head hits will reduce the amount of concussions and thus mitigate the risk of long-term brain trauma for the athletes who take the field. But recent research shows that it doesn’t necessarily take a career full of concussions to lead to the long-term cognitive problems many football players experience after retirement. Rather, chronic traumatic encepholopathy, dementia, depression, and other serious cognitive damage can result from the constant repetition of seemingly minor hits to the head — the kind that happen hundreds of times every game from the NFL level down to youth football.
* As part of a series on FOX Sports, Jennifer Floyd Engel wrote that some of the concussion talk has been muted in the NFL, but the dangers remain.
* Yahoo!Sports’ high school sports blog wrote about — with video — the injury of a Notre Dame recruit during a practice for the Under Armour All-America Game. It’s Torii Hunter Jr., son of the Detroit Tigers outfielder. Here is the video:
* SportsGrid.com reported that the Boston Celtics called up Fab Melo from the D-League in order to treat him for the concussion he sustained on a doorway.
– Bill Bradley, contributing editor