Friday, August 14, 2020
US flag

Football players trade brain damage for scholarships

High schools, justifiably concerned about the health of their student-athletes, fork over $900 apiece for the latest high-tech, “concussion-resistant” helmets.

“Despite the fact football continues to enjoy immense worldwide popularity (estimates put fan numbers at or above 400 million), the sport remains under constant scrutiny for its approach—or lack thereof—to concussions,” writes a web page about one such helmet from Vicis.

But the “facts” involved here have nothing to do with the number of fans; rather, we are concerned with telling boys to play a sport we know has a higher-than-average chance of giving them permanent brain damage in the form of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The word “chronic” in the name refers to an abnormal condition that doesn’t get better over time or with treatment but continues to get worse as these boys become men.

A New York Times op-ed puts the issue in perspective. While colleges bring in money from football businesses—often football coaches are their highest-paid employees—universities rightly reward an inordinately large number of students scholarships for playing football. This leads parents and kids to “apply” for that scholarship money by focusing on football, by far the most popular scholarship sport, instead of using financial need or academic prowess to get their hands on those dollars that ultimately help them get a college education.

It seems self-defeating, doesn’t it? We use a sport that makes boys unable to learn due to permanent brain damage when they become young men in order to give them money to help them pay their way to a degree at an institution of higher learning. The only educational mission served by football is not a mission for the football players themselves but for the fans: the students who enjoy going to games because they gain a sense of belonging to their school communities. Enjoying school is no small issue, for sure, but it’s not about any actual benefits to the football players themselves—who often don’t finish their degrees anyway.

Some high schools, including Centennial High School in Ellicott City, Maryland, have eliminated football altogether in response to growing concerns over CTE.

“The truth is, while some will decide the game’s risks aren’t worth it, others—mostly lower-income black and brown kids—continue to depend on it as a chance to climb the educational and economic ladder,” writes Albert Samaha in the op-ed. He’s the author of Never Ran, Never Will: Boyhood and Football in a Changing American Inner City. “Yes, football is dangerous, but so is leaving one’s future in the hands of an unequal educational system. It’s no wonder the sport still feels like a winning ticket.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

Recent posts

Voxitatis congratulates the COVID Class of 2020

2020 is unique and, for high school graduates, different from anything they've seen. Proms, spring sports, & many graduation ceremonies are cancelled. Time for something new.

Vertical addition (m3.nbt.2) math practice

3rd grade, numbers and operations in base 10, 2, 3-digit vertical addition practice problem

Rubber ducks (m3.oa.1) math practice

3rd grade, operational and algebraic thinking, 1, rubber ducky modeling practice problem

Distance learning begins as Covid-19 thrives

What we learn during & from coronavirus, a challenging & imminent crisis, will provide insights into so many aspects of our lives.

Calif. h.s. choir sings with social distancing

Performances with the assistance of technology can spread inspiration across the globe even as the coronavirus spreads illness and disease.

Families plan to stay healthy during closures

Although schools are doing what they can to keep students learning and healthy during the coronavirus outbreak, that duty now shifts to parents.

Illinois temporarily closes all schools

IL schools will be closed on Tuesday, March 17, through at least March 30. Schools in 18 states are now closed due to coronavirus.

Coronavirus closures & cancellations

Many schools are closed and sports tournaments cancelled across America during what the president called a national emergency: coronavirus.

Coronavirus closes schools in Seattle

The coronavirus pandemic has caused colleges to cancel classes, and now Seattle Public Schools became the nation's first large district to cancel classes due to the virus.

Most detailed images ever of the sun

A new telescope at the National Solar Observatory snapped the most detailed pictures of the sun's surface we have ever seen.

Feds boost Bay funding

Restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed received a boost in federal funding in the budget Congress passed last month.