I’m not predicting it, but the snowballing of news about concussions among professional football players could signal an end to the game as we’ve known it since its inception.
Former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon — one of the game’s more colorful characters — is suffering from early-onset dementia likely caused by the many hits he took while playing the game.
He’s not alone. Many others have reported suffering similar symptoms. Their ranks are growing right along with the numbers of tragic consequences.
Should the game be declared too dangerous to continue? No. But oh brother, the debate over how to compensate these athletes is just now getting revved up.
The National Football League this week announced a settlement that provides $765 million in relief to battered players. The PBS program Frontline is set to explore the subject in detail in a two-hour special to be shown on Oct. 8 (at 8 p.m., on KACV-TV).
The concussion problem likely isn’t new. It’s been a part of the game since its founding. These days, though, the players are bigger, faster and stronger than ever. They hit harder. Human skulls, however, haven’t gotten more durable. They’re the same as they’ve always been: susceptible to damage caused by repeated blows to the head.
This national discussion is not going to fade away any time soon. Nor should it.
The men who play professional football, it now seems apparent, are putting their lives on the line when they suit up. Yes, they’re big and strong and they play the game likely understanding the consequences of getting hit repeatedly by their equally big and strong colleagues.
That doesn’t make it any easier to hear stories like the one Jim McMahon and many others are telling about their slow decline toward death.