NFL needs reform to protect its players

Ever since my dad taught me how to throw a football when I was seven years old, I have loved the sport of football. I spend most of my Sundays watching football and I believe it is a beautiful game when played well. Even so, I believe football in its current state is not sustainable long term. It is simply too dangerous for both the brain and the body of the player to continue in its current form.

Football hasn’t lost a large percentage of its spectators or revenue, but it may soon run out of players. Many American children begin playing tackle football toward the end of middle school, but trends show that this is changing. Fewer parents are letting their children play football at a young age because of all the risk associated with the sport. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a traumatic degenerative brain disease, has been directly linked to the collisions that result from playing football.

It used to be that getting hit playing football was just part of the fun, but now many parents are starting to see that playing football can completely destroy their children’s lives. As less people participate in football, less people will watch football and the cycle will continue until football loses much of its place in American culture. A few athletic freaks are already deciding to take their talents to other sports leagues such as the NBA, where they are much less likely to be injured and can enjoy themselves more. Football will never truly die because there will always be people passionate about the sport who continue to play despite the risk, but football has likely reached its maximum popularity already and doesn’t have anywhere to go but down.

While the issue of protests is certainly a factor in the decrease in NFL viewership that has been seen over the past two years, I think it is far from the driving factor. There are very similar protests in the NBA with the league’s biggest stars, such as LeBron James, taking on issues of social justice quite regularly. However, even with these protests, the NBA has seen staggering growth in viewership and revenue throughout the past four years, indicating that protests are not the sole cause of the NFL’s woes.

Clearly something in the NFL needs to change, but what can be done to alleviate the risk? No sport is risk free but there are certainly ways to make football safer for everyone involved. Probably the change I want to see the most is the elimination of the kickoff from the sport. It is by far the most dangerous play type in the game and isn’t even particularly interesting to watch. There also needs to be more done to prevent unnecessarily violent hits because they can take players out of the game for good. I don’t want to see the NFL turn into two-hand-touch, but I do think that there needs to be some rule changes or the NFL and football as we know it may be gone for good.