New York Post Writer: Football Is Safer Than Many Other Youth Activities, Not Disproportionately Harmful Long-term
Although football has probably never been more popular or prosperous, there are threats to the sport which could radically alter how it is played in the short-term, and perhaps, based on reports of reduced youth participation in the game and attempts to ban young people from playing it, its very existence in the long-term.
At the New York Post, writer Daniel Flynn, the author of “War on Football,” has compiled quite a bit of information which contradicts the “football is deadly and damaging” meme which has gained popular and media currency, including in an unchallenged interview by Fareed Zakaria on a CNN show, as a result of “more than 4,800 named player-plaintiffs in … 242 concussion-related lawsuits” against the National Football League (bolds are mine):
In defense of football
The push to ban youth sport exaggerates the risk and ignores the benefits
Football, watched by two-thirds of Americans and generating annual revenues approaching $10 billion for the National Football League, has strangely been relegated to sports’ endangered-species list.
The game’s existential threats include a lawsuit brought against the NFL by more than 4,000 former players alleging that the league hid occupational hazards that led to brain damage. Science’s exploration of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in deceased football players has led pundits to link off-field violence to on-field trauma. The suicides of Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and other players suffering from CTE similarly have forced some to rethink the ethics of watching the sport.
… Calling the sport an “anachronism,” writer Malcolm Gladwell recently said on CNN that “there is just no conceivable argument to continue to practice this inhumane spectacle.” He urges educational institutions to tell their student-athletes that they can’t play.
About 4 million Americans play tackle football, most of them young people.
… Yet for all the headlines, not a single player on a sandlot, high-school or college team died from a football hit last year. More kids died from lightning strikes on football fields last season than from getting struck by other players.
So, “logically,” we should ban kids from playing outside in open fields.
By way of comparison, football hits killed 36 players in 1968. In the last decade, total fatalities from contact have averaged 3.7 per year — about a tenth of what they were in football’s deadliest season. Football hits over the last decade killed one-sixth the number of players as they did during the 1960s, one-fourth the number of players as they did during the 1970s, and one-half the number of players as they did during the 1980s.
… Meanwhile, many childhood activities that parents deem beneficial or at least benign prove far deadlier. Thirty skateboarders suffered fatal injuries in America in 2012. About half a dozen kids die on US playgrounds every year. At least eight American students died during gym class this past school year. Neither headlines nor a movement arose calling to ban those activities in spite of the greater loss of life than football hits. People intuitively grasp that physical education and monkey bars provide benefits that outweigh costs. That risk/reward quotient strangely remains absent from the gridiron debate.
… “Playing football at an elite level, in college or at the pro level, has all kinds of long-term health consequences,” Malcolm Gladwell told Fareed Zakaria in his recent CNN interview. “We know from doing long-term epidemiological studies that there’s a rate of injury, a rate of disability, a rate of early death.”
Except, as Flynn explains, the studies don’t exist, and one which does has opposite findings:
(A study by) Sherry Baron, the lead author of a 2012 study on player mortality by the National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health … shows that professional football players outlive comparable American men. At the behest of the NFL Players Association, Baron’s team of government scientists investigated 3,439 pension-vested NFL retirees who played in five or more seasons between 1959 and 1988. They didn’t find what the union, or even many casual fans, imagined they would. The scientists expected to find 625 deaths based on the prevailing rates among similar men. Baron’s group found 334 player deaths. The retired-athlete cohort exhibited diminished rates of cancer, heart disease and even suicide.
Oops. I wonder when CNN’s Fareed Zakaria will have anyone on to refute Malcolm Gladwell’s apparently unsupported assertions?
The suspicion here is that much of the press, egged on by the plaintiffs’ bar, will ignore evidence such as that presented by Flynn.
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.