Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow got very candid on The Colin Cowherd Podcast this week. The third-year pro admitted to not remembering large parts of games he’s played in due to how hard he was hit.
“That has happened a couple of times. But I’ve never had one where I have headaches for a week,“ Burrow said.
“I’ve had some (hits) where I don’t remember the second half, or I don’t remember the entire game or I know I got a little dizzy at one point. But nothing long-lasting.”
Burrow assumes that everybody has had a concussion that plays the game of football. He’s probably right.
Football is a dangerous game. Always has and likely always will be. Players today are bigger, stronger, faster than ever before. The science that goes into their strength training is remarkable. They eat better than ever. Sleep better than ever. And with medical advances now, recover better than ever.
Players aren’t smoking Marlboro Reds on the sidelines like back in the old days.
“You have 300-pound men running 20 miles an hour trying to take your head off while you’re standing still, trying to ignore it and find receivers that are open and then sometimes you have to go run to try and get a first down. … It’s part of the game, I think. Part of what we signed up for,” Burrow added.
We’re to Blame too
And he’s completely right. It is what each player signs up for when they lace the cleats up and take the field. The sport isn’t new. Injuries haven’t just recently been documented. Everyone knows the risks of football.
That includes us fans too. We are not innocent in this.
We watch the games. Buy tickets to attend games. Pay for jerseys and hats. Play fantasy football. We’re encouraging this. I’m as guilty as any of you reading this.
After Joe Burrow’s comments went public earlier this week, you had reactions from all ends of the spectrum. Some more notable ones called for people to stop watching football. Others said they would not let their kids play football due to the dangers of the game.
One of Which is Taking Place
That last one is already happening. According to a 2019 Forbes article, high school football participation has been declining for a decade. There is no factual evidence this is due to risk of injuries. Part of the blame is likely attributed to student-athletes “specializing” in one sport as opposed to playing multiple.
In Michigan alone, the amount of high school football players has dropped considerably in recent years. In 2008 there were 46,359 participants, that fell to 32,367 in 2021 per the Michigan High School Athletic Association. Again, there is no fact-based evidence that can pinpoint this to any one cause.
I don’t have a child, but I’ve wondered to myself how I would feel about my kid wanting to play football. I never played growing up, so I lack that personal experience to help my judgement. I don’t fault any parent not wanting to put their child in harm’s way. The number one job of a parent is to protect their child. If they feel it’s best to not let them play football, so be it.
But to think football is just going to disappear sometime in the near future is insane. Even the imagination that it will look vastly different, similar to a flag football kind of game. Not going to happen.
Ratings Don’t Lie
To the people who believe that, I think you truly underestimate the popularity of the sport. Football is king, and it’s not close. For the first three months of the year, NFL games accounted for half of the top 50 live telecasts in the country. That includes 13 of the top 14 telecasts. The one non-football program was the President’s State of the Union address. And three of the other 25 non-NFL telecasts? College football games.
There is a reason Saturday afternoons in the fall your TV guide is littered with college football. Networks wouldn’t put so many games on if they knew people wouldn’t watch them. Do you think the SEC, Big Ten and ACC created their own broadcasting companies, so you can watch volleyball? Nope. It’s so you can watch the sixth-best football game within the conference that week.
Seeing star players get concussed, and a few former players show signs of CTE isn’t going to slow down the NFL train either. No one likes to see this happen, by the way. We don’t enjoy seeing Tua Tagovailoa get stretchered off the field or stumble after getting up like he did the week before.
But the reality is that isn’t going to keep an overwhelming majority of people from watching football. It would take decades of this happening to drastically change the sport.
Junior Seau died ten years ago after committing suicide. And it didn’t take long for doctors to attribute him taking his life to CTE. And what has happened in the last ten years that has changed the way they play football? You get penalized for a helmet-to-helmet hit, and linemen have to wear a goofy looking bubble caps on their helmet during training camp.
I don’t say this to be a cynic, it’s the truth. It would take unprecedented things to happen for the football we watch today to change significantly.
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