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"The Truth About American Football and Health" Topic

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879 hits since 6 Nov 2013
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Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2013 4:49 p.m. PST

Fascinating piece.


I feel he glosses over a few points (potential joint injuries, etc.), but he certainly blows the claims about neurological risks out of the water.

Smokey Roan Inactive Member06 Nov 2013 4:51 p.m. PST

Nice work.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2013 5:59 p.m. PST

It sucks when facts get in the way of your hypothesis.

Cincinnatus Inactive Member06 Nov 2013 6:41 p.m. PST

It would need to know a few more things before I'd be willing to agree about football saving lives.

What was the "peer" group they were compared against? If they simply compared pension drawing NFL players against the average male that's not really comparing apples to apples. A world class athlete by all measurements has physical abilities that are far above the average male. They really need to be measured against other people who have the same type of physical abilities but didn't play football. For all we know without football they should live 20 years longer.

I would also like to see a study looking more at the later NFL players. It's well known that players at most positions are FAR bigger (and heavier) than they used to be. I've always thought the sheer bulk must contribute to a short life. A guy that weighs 300-350 isn't going to live to be an old man very often. It's just too demanding on his heart/body. And do we really think a guy who weighs 250 as a player is going to maintain that weight as he gets older? Or will he creep up to 350 before his body finally gives out?

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2013 7:25 p.m. PST

Cincinnatus, I suggest you look at The Rock and Arnold the Governator.
Dwayne is much slimmer than when he was wrestling as is the Governor.

Cincinnatus Inactive Member06 Nov 2013 7:53 p.m. PST

Irrelevant. Neither if them were 350 pound NFL linemen.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2013 8:37 p.m. PST

It would need to know a few more things before I'd be willing to agree about football saving lives.

Fair enough, but that's not the main point. The main point is that football apparently doesn't increase the risk of neurological disorders, which the recent mass hysteria is all about. Whatever factors cause these diseases, playing football is not a significant risk factor. So unless another study can establish otherwise (and do so without the obvious agenda bias of the PBS special), then the push to end or restrict the game needs to be soberly rethought, and people need to be informed of the truth, not misled by irresponsible reporting.

Coffee Fiend06 Nov 2013 9:53 p.m. PST

Parzival, the other study is the very same study that Daniel J Flynn references. The author of the article is cherry-picking the report and using the statistics in a misleading manner. The risk for neurological disorders, as cited in the NIOSH report released in January, 2013, found that the risk of ALS and Alzheimer's is 4 times greater in NFL players, with "speed positions" having a higher rate then "non-speed positions". Parkinsons had no significant increase. While it is true that former NFL players do live longer when compared to the general population, another report released by NIOSH revealed that certain positions have significantly higher rates of heart disease – specifically defensive linemen.

Unlike Mr. Flynn, I will provide sources for this information
Neurological Impact: PDF link

Heart Disease:
PDF link

I am a high school football coach and I can tell you that the precautions we are taking today to prevent head trauma are significant because it is a real issue. The average players I am coaching today, and coaching against, are physically bigger and stronger then they were even ten years ago.

jpattern2 Inactive Member07 Nov 2013 10:26 a.m. PST

What Coffee Fiend said.

To paraphrase the OFM, yes, it DOES suck when facts get in the way of your hypothesis.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2013 10:48 a.m. PST

Coffee Fiend: Thanks for the links. They certainly put the author's point into a different perspective. I'm curious; do you have objective data for your experiences of bigger and stronger players, or is it more just a general sense of a difference? And by "bigger" do you mean a higher percentage of body fat, or is it also a factor of muscle as well? To what might you attribute such a change?

As to the related issue of concussion, I've been wondering if it doesn't make sense to pad the outside of the helmet as well as the inside, to allow for even more diverting of force.

jpattern2 Inactive Member07 Nov 2013 3:39 p.m. PST

It's not just an anecdote, high school football players really are getting bigger and stronger.

The local paper (Raleigh News & Observer) did a story just last month on how big – and how much bigger – high school football players are getting in NC.

Southern Durham's offensive line in 2012 averaged 285 pounds, 30 pounds heavier than N.C. State's offensive front in 1987.
As part of the story, the paper analyzed high school football rosters to show the average weight of football players by school year, position and weight group. The article, and the accompanying graphs, are jaw-dropping: link

In every category, the average weight is increasing, except one: There are fewer defensive players under 150 pounds than in any season since '08-'09, and the number is plummeting.

Just one statistic, as a teaser: In '06-'07, there were 15 300+ players in NC. This year, there are 33, down slightly from last year's high of 38.

From the story, it's not just fat. These guys do some serious weight training. But as one kid says:
Brown recalled when UNC wanted him to lose some weight and he'd do extra work using a stair climber or treadmill. "But there was food always around," he said. "I'd work out an extra hour and pick up a couple of doughnuts on the way out."
They're big to begin with, but it's not unusual for these kids to put on 10-15 pounds each year they're in high school. They're literally killing themselves in the long run (heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing difficulties, concussions, stress fractures, muscle pain, deteriorating joints) for a slim shot at the pros.

Total number of high school football players in the US in 2011: 1,134,377
Total number of players in the NFL in 2011: 1,696

So less than 0.15% of high school players make it to the pros.

Coffee Fiend07 Nov 2013 9:30 p.m. PST

I have very similar experiences to what jpattern2 says, but mine is all based on experience of coaching high school ball for 19 years and not any hard data.

I love football, but I also want the players to be safe and I find the best way to protect the players is to teach head up tackling, head up blocking and to be properly trained in recognizing the possible symptoms of a concussion. When in doubt, I let the trainer make the call. Risk is part of the game, but we can minimize some of the risk and still keep the game.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP08 Nov 2013 10:11 a.m. PST

I don't know where the N&O got their numbers, but in
1956 (my first year playing HS f'ball), our line was
a LOT heavier than their numbers, even with me in it
at 135 pounds (we ran a lot of trap and outside sweeps so
I was there as the 'pulling guard').

I've posted elsewhere our line weights for the interior
5; next to me, the lightest was 255 pounds (center).
Heaviest was left tackle at 285. The ends were 200
and 185. Teams we played against were not quite as
heavy, but were still over the N&O cited numbers.

BTW, NO ONE on that team got a F'ball scholarship offer
from any college.

I do think Stevens (reporter) is correct in suggesting that
colleges look for big kids, but not necessarily fat kids.

Cincinnatus Inactive Member08 Nov 2013 7:49 p.m. PST

I'm not sure what point you are trying to make but those weights for offensive linemen in high school are FAR, FAR greater than would be expected in 1956. NFL offensive linemen of the era were almost all smaller than those kids on that line.

An example:

1956 NFL championship was won by the NY Giants over the Chicago Bears.

Bears O-line:

Giants O-line:

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP08 Nov 2013 8:53 p.m. PST

Conclusions: The neurodegenerative mortality of this cohort is 3 times higher than that of the general US population; that for 2 of the major neurodegenerative subcategories, AD and ALS, is 4 times higher. These results are consistent with recent studies that suggest an increased risk of neurodegenerative disease among football players.


…… the results accord particularly closely with the hypothesis that exposure to repetitive mTBI during the course of the professional NFL career leads to abnormal frontal lobe function.


If anyone is guilty of cherry picking, it is Mr. Flynn. Amazing how he missed the first study, published last year and studied 3,439 ex NFL players. He has a book to sell, and has misrepresent the NIOSH report to suit his agenda.

I'm the father of a 6' 6", 340 lb offensive lineman playing in his third year of College football. About 5 of his best friends sat out last season with various head injuries. It is ridiculous to pretend there is no concern needed.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP08 Nov 2013 9:22 p.m. PST

Cinncinatus, all I know is the facts – we had a bunch
of farm boys on that team. And, BTW, for all that heft,
our record that season was a stunning 1-9.

BTW, of that set of OL, all of 'em are dead except me,
heart attacks.

I spent some time as a lacto-ovo vegetarian 35 years ago,
which probably has helped my longevity.

Texas Jack09 Nov 2013 6:02 a.m. PST

Wow Ed, glad you are still with us! That really was a big bunch of boys you had on that OL. My first year for the varsity, back in 1978, I donīt know about the offensive side, but our DL had some guys topping out around 210-220. As for me, I was a 6-2 165 pound FS, and I think the receivers I went up against couldnīt have been more than 150.

For me the funny thing about the injury aspect is that now I am 51 going on 52, almost every bad thing I did to my body in my youth hurts me now, but the most painful are injuries I got playing baseball, not football. The worst is my left (throwing) elbow, all those curves have come back to haunt me! Whoever said getting old isnīt for sissies was damn right!

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP09 Nov 2013 11:58 a.m. PST

Thanks for setting the record straight, everyone. Cherry picking is correct. Pffft on that guy's book.

As for my sports past, I have a definite weather knee left over. Whether that's from soccer, snow skiing or waterskiing, or a combination of the three, I don't know. I just know whenever there's a significant plunge in atmospheric pressure. Ow.

Cincinnatus Inactive Member09 Nov 2013 12:33 p.m. PST

Hey Ed, not calling BS or anything. Just pointing out your team from 1956 was a definite outlier on the scale. You were probably not only bigger than most colleges but also the pros.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP09 Nov 2013 12:57 p.m. PST

Y'all need to remember I'm only talking about FOUR guys
(both tackles, the center and the left guard).

I don't recall the sizes of the backfield, except that
they seemed 'normal', whatever that is.

Last year I coached ('88, volunteer asst. in HS), our
players went around 225 (O and D line), 200+ (LB's and
TE's) with the DB's and 'skill' positions (hate that
terminology) from 160 – 200.

And tall, for the most part, at least the Ones.

One of the most interesting things is that of all the
kids with whom I worked, ONE made it to the NFL, and he
wasn't a big kid – 6'1", about 200 pounds.

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