As a father, I believe that involving children in sports at a young age is generally a wise proposition. I believe that healthy competition is… well… healthy, that sporting events foster a spirit of teamwork that far surpasses the events themselves, and that active participation keeps children moving and is good for their self-esteem.
However, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the level of violence I am observing in football today, and its long-term effects on the physical and mental health of its players. Athletes at all ages are bigger and stronger than ever before. And they are being encouraged — sometimes even incentivized, as we recently learned was the case on at least one National Football League team — to play to injure.
More athletes and former athletes than ever, at every age, are being diagnosed with brain injuries and the number of concussions and trauma-inducing incidents appear to be on the rise because of the physicality of our players. The truth is, what Americans enjoy about football is much of what makes the sport dangerous. However, I believe there must be a way to find the art of success and vitality in football, without the driving the level of impact that causes serious risk of head trauma, paralysis and other life-changing injuries.
We must spotlight the serious threat that head injuries and brain trauma can have on the lives of our young athletes. With a better understanding of the early warning signs and symptoms of brain trauma, and by following proper steps to identify and clear athletes to resume participation after an injury, we can ensure they live longer, more fulfilled and healthier lives.
I am honored to be involved in an upcoming documentary designed to explore whether proper player safety steps can be taken with football, while still maintaining the integrity and the fundamentals that have inspired game we love. This documentary includes commentary from an array of impressive individuals, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and UCLA Brain Injury Research Center Director Dr. David Hovda.
We must remember the importance of early brain injury detection, as well as the need for extensive education and awareness. Through this detection, and by understanding early signs and symptoms, medical professionals can help dramatically increase the long-term quality of life, health and well-being of our young athletes. Because I think it goes without saying that football is just a sport, and that the lives of the people we love are more important than the game we enjoy.