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Retired NFL players recently reached a settlement with the NFL over injuries sustained during their careers that may lead to brain disorders such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). While the NFL denied the connection between professional football and chronic degenerative diseases such as CTE for years, internal actuarial reports now expect that one in three players will be affected.
There is reason to suspect that even as awareness of this issue increases, the problem is underestimated, as CTE has shown up in the brains of 76 of 79 players who have been autopsied, even in some players who only played in high school and college. An extensive documentary effort by PBS Frontline explains the recent developments around the research of CTE and the NFL's growing consciousness of the scope of the problem.
Nearly 50% of Americans now say they would not want their sons to play football. Youth participation in Pop Warner football dropped 10% between 2010-2012. Anectdotally, Brett Favre, who is worried about his own emerging difficult with memory issues, has stated "If I had a son, I would be real leery of him playing."
The NFL continues to generate billions of dollars in revenue, and 2.8 million kids around the country still play tackle football. Confounding evidence also shows that professional football players live longer and, with the exception of linemen, had lower rates of heart disease compared with the general population as a result of their athleticism.
...and the questions it generates.
Will this new knowledge change how the game is played? Are player injuries a matter of personal responsibility or collective responsibility? Is it still ethical to watch football? Are you planning on letting your children play? Do colleges, or does the NCAA, have the same long term responsibility to care for their players as the NFL does?