High school students are getting together for their first official practices all over the country as this lovely study by Jesse Medz and other leading researchers in neurology and published in the Journal for the American Medical Association was released, which contained this horrifying reality check:
Among the 202 deceased brain donors (median age at death, 66 years [interquartile range [IQR], 47-76 years]), CTE was neuropathologically diagnosed in 177 (87%; median age at death, 67 years [IQR, 52-77 years]; mean years of football participation, 15.1 [SD, 5.2]; 140 [79%] self-identified as white and 35 [19%] self-identified as black), including 0 of 2 pre–high school, 3 of 14 high school (21%), 48 of 53 college (91%), 9 of 14 semiprofessional (64%), 7 of 8 Canadian Football League (88%), and 110 of 111 NFL (99%) players.
Let's break this out a bit, in a sample size of 14, 3 individuals who simply played high school football were diagnosed with CTE, the debilitating disorder first recognized as "Punch Drunk" syndrome in the late 1920s. While a small sample size makes it so one kid in either direction will swing the percentage wildly, if someone told you you had somewhere around a 20% chance of dying when you left the house that day, I'm guessing you're staying in.
But for anyone successful enough to make it to the next level, the results are, well, it's hard to think of an adjective here that isn't too on the nose for a discussion about severe brain trauma. 48 of the 53 collegiate level players were diagnosed (91%), and 110 of the 111 NFL players (99%).
Some point to this study which shows that there's still about as many football players as basketball and track and field combined, the two most popular sports after football, and participation is only down a couple percentage points and wonder if this means that football will last longer than some have previous speculated.
As I've said before, the big question is if some form of lawsuit is ever successfully brought against a high school. If that happens, the fallout will be immediate, and football could decline in popularity astonishingly quickly. High schools and most colleges simply will not be able to afford having football teams, and things would only get more complicated from there.
Otherwise, the is no reason to think there won't be a steady supply of people who could care less about the studies showing how dangerous it is, and an additional, smaller, more talented segment of the population which will view it as the most viable way for their family to achieve the American dream.