It was recently revealed that President Barack Obama is concerned about the future of football, citing concussions as a major safety issue. Our president is not the first to express feelings of doubt for the future sport, however, as families of amateur and professional players alike have all felt the impacts of the dangerous game. For past players, it’s the growing amounts of evidence linking concussions to dementia, early onset Alzheimer’s disease and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease diagnosed after death that results in memory loss, depression and confusion. For current amateur players, it’s the risk that concussions pose on the developing brain, which can have adverse effects on academics and lead to depression. In recent months, the future of football has been questioned more and more, and to complicate things more, the sport’s popularity has never been higher. The NCAA and NFL rake in billions of dollars annually, and these trends don’t appear to be declining any time soon. Eventually, as the injuries and lawsuits build up the game will reach its crossroads, and it will experience significant changes at all levels, from Pop Warner up through the professional levels.
As scary as this may seem to football fans, it should offer some relief to know that this is not the first time a president has proposed changes to the game. In 1905 18 players were killed in football games, yet the sport continued to gain popularity. Like Obama, then-President Teddy Roosevelt was a fan of the game and wanted it to be preserved. But to do this, he knew that changes needed to be made to make the sport safer. What ensued was a revolution; rugby-style passes and formations were outlawed leading to more modern looking plays, and, more significantly, the forward pass was implemented. This leads me to believe that the sport will ultimately change for the better and become safer, but at the same time, it will not lose any of its popularity. It recovered 100 years ago, as did cycling and baseball, sports that were more recently damaged by the use of PED’s.
Football has already survived one revolution, whose to say it won’t survive another?