The first pick of the first round of the 1970 NFL draft, Terry Bradshaw played quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 13 years. Reflecting on his life with Jay Leno, Bradshaw envisioned the future football career of his offspring.
“If I had a son today, and I would say this to all our audience and our viewers out there, I would not let him play football,” said Bradshaw.
Bradshaw’s statement appears outrageous. It brings to mind questions of why he would not want his son to achieve the same wealth and fame he did, not to mention the personal fulfillment of succeeding in a sport he loved. From an external standpoint, Bradshaw should be grateful for football. One would think if Bradshaw loved his son, he would want nothing more than for him to play football too.
Bradshaw went on to explain that he didn’t want his children to suffer the brain damage found in hundreds of former NFL players including Bradshaw himself. Besides his list of Super Bowl triumphs, Bradshaw racked up head injury after head injury in the NFL. He’s had six major concussions. Now, at age 66, Bradshaw struggles with short-term memory loss.
Scientists have found that the repeated hits to the head involved in football seriously harm the brain. Former football players are likely to develop Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). According to experts at Boston University, victims of CTE experience “aggression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.” Scientists from Purdue University conducted a study on a high school football team in Indiana. During the study, players wore special helmets every game for two seasons. The helmets included a device that measured the impacts the players took to the head. The researchers found repeated soft hits to over time can inflict just as much damage on the brain as a single hit hard enough to cause a concussion. According to fRMI scans, all the players showed changes in the area of the brain associated with CTE, even though none of the players had had a concussion.
Upsides of football include learning to work as a team and developing self-discipline. However, those benefits aren’t unique to football. Any other sport will provide the same boost in moral character.
Banning football completely seems unlikely, since it is beloved by fans across America and the basis of a multi-million dollar industry. In an article in Forbes magazine, Leigh Steinburg suggested changes to the sport to make it safer. Among them are forbidding blocking and tackling with the head or neck, improved helmets, and more careful methods to determine whether players who have been hit are well enough to return to the game.
If coaches give America’s most loved sport a makeover, football can possibly become safe enough for Terry Bradshaw to feel good about his children following in his footsteps. As another option, children can choose another sport like rowing instead of football so they can still enjoy fitness.