I rarely watch football. I didn’t even watch the Super Bowl today. I did, however, watch a football game a few Sundays ago. I was amazed, but mostly disturbed, at the head injuries sustained by many of the players. I began to think about how frequently high school football players experience similar trauma. Clearly, this will have a negative effect on their physical and mental health, and eventually on their educational attainment. I wonder if it is worth it.
Jonah Lehrer does not seem to think so. In a recent blog, The Fragile Teenage Brain, he explains how insidious and common head injuries from high school football actually are. He writes:
Although estimates vary, several studies suggest that up to 15 percent of football players suffer a mild traumatic brain injury during the season. (The odds are significantly worse for student athletes – The Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearly 2 million brain injuries are suffered by teenage players every year.) In fact, the chances of getting a concussion while playing high school football are approximately three times higher than the second most dangerous sport, which is girls soccer. While such head injuries have long been ignored – until recently, players were resuscitated with smelling salts so they could re-enter the game – it’s now clear that these blows have lasting consequences.