Does the violence in football pose a long-term threat to the sport?

Citing the potential for permanent brain injury and the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, NFL player Jacob Bell has retired at 31. Today’s Question: Does the violence in football pose a long-term threat to the sport?

  • Hiram

    Isn’t this a question that should have been asked and explored before we decided to build the Vikings a stadium and not after? We seem to have decided to spend billions of dollars on a stadium to be used 8 times a year without addressing the most basic questions about the long term viability of our partner. Does this make any sense at all?

  • Steve the Cynic

    It should.

  • reggie

    Increasing violence in sports like football and hockey, MMA, incessant high-def replays of injuries and crashes, first-person shooter games, those are just recreational examples of how we have become junkies. Football is just an acceptable drug of choice, the players just the gladiators of our age.

  • GaryF


    As long as there is television revenue and the full acceptance and backing of state governments, it will still be around.

    Football is a dangerous sport and there are assumed risks. They get paid a lot more than most jobs partially because of that inherit risk of injury.

    But most of the players were coddled growing up and didn’t have to learn real life skills in high school and college and then once they make the NFL they have no idea that they might only play a year or two and suffer serious lifelong injury.

    But, as long as the TV stations give the NFL large contracts and we keep subsidizing stadiums, I see no change.

  • Elijah the Tishbite

    As I’ve been saying,….. Footbaal.

  • Craig

    The urge to observe violent competition is vestigial, like our tailbones and appendixes. In earlier times there was a reward for figuring out who were the physically dominant males.

    Like vestigial anatomy, the urge is no longer useful, but we still have it, just as the roots of many other self-destructive urges lie in behavior that was once rewarded.

  • Kevin

    I’m a 30-yo male and a (mostly) life-long football fanatic. That fanaticism began to deteriorate by the late-00’s, as the game became more violent with bigger, faster, stronger players, and an increase (in my opinion) in the thirst for violence surrounding the game. I’ve believed since then that, if the course of the game continues on this violent path, we could see a player die instantly on the field due to a hit. I don’t want to support something in which that happens. And, even if it doesn’t, the violence is too much for me and I can no longer support the game. In the light of the bounty scandal (and evidence that such behavior was not exclusive to the Saints), if the season started tomorrow I would ignore it. I never would have imagined this as a younger man. I was weaned in the church of football. I may still be susceptible to the NFL hype machine when the season rolls around (I know no other way) but I think I’ve been disabused of my former love for the game.

  • Earl

    Hell no!

    Bring on the lions and long knives….

  • Jim G

    As a former High School and small college player I can honestly say when I played, I loved the game. I loved knocking guys flat. The harder I hit someone the better. It was my drug of choice and my passage into manhood. The play that “took” me out of the game was not the two concussions when I lost consciousness but the a targeted hit on my one good knee. Loved playing the game, but today I can’t stand watching it. I know the the long term health issues these players will be living with. The violence in football has gotten worse because the players are bigger. I just stopped watching. In the end the game is too painful.

  • C Lee

    If people aren’t worried by now, they never will be. It is Darwin in action. The bigger question is why so many people are such fanatics that we can justify funding a sport over education, homeless shelters, veteran support and anything else that is actually worthwhile for a humane and just society. I will never understand this.

  • Larry M.

    I think people will continue to watch it. More football players will be shooting themselves in the chest so they can have their heads examined (brains).

    But why bring up the question now after the stadium vote instead of before? Do you just want to fill the state with buyer’s remorse instead of trying to educate the public of the real issues in a timely way?

    It’s like telling someone that they could get hurt if they cross that line, after they crossed it.

  • Ann

    The game evidently hasn’t become popular in other countries. So there must be something about it that makes it uniquely popular here. I guess it will continue.It doesn’t interest me. It is especially puzzling that Minnesotans will spend so much money for a team that loses.It is hard to believe that our legislators were duped into spending so much time on a stadium.Vote them out of office.

  • Gladiolus

    I think that slowly the sport will change, because there indeed is a rising awareness of the severe health issues caused by concussions. The Boston University researchers who have worked with brains of athletes with a history of concussions have done great work at showing a correlation between a physically damaged brain and behavioral issues. I found the NY Times series about Derek Boogard from the NHL eye-opening, and one of the best journalistic pieces I have read in a long time. And the lawsuit by former NFL players against the league will also raise public awareness of the issues, even if they do not win.

    With more awareness, hopefully responsible parents will steer their children to different sports, both as players and as fans.

    The sad thing is, though, that there will probably always be some folks who are unaware of the dangers of the sport who continue to play, being enticed by the riches that come with a career in the NFL, and who will be convinced by the thin league arguments that the sport is safe. And there will also always be fans who are turned on by the barbaric and who love a fight. Even when it comes at the cost of other people’s well-being.

  •!/billdove5 Bill

    Violence itself does not pose a long-term threat to football. It’s always been a part of the game (college kids used to die on the field 100 years ago wearing padded leather helmets). The only real threat is our own conscience and growing distaste for the ugly damage done to former gridiron heroes.

  • Dan D

    I hesitate to call it violence. Yes, I believe the high impact intensity will affect the long term prospects of the game. Here is why I believe things will change:

    In ten years few high schools will be able to pay the insurance premiums required to field a team. The more fanatic schools will stick around but how exciting will watching 18 high school teams play in Minnesota be?

    Next, I played football until I was 20 years old. If I had sons, I would not let them play. I was at a wedding a few years back and just about all my friends who played college football (around age 33) walked with a limp. Now in their early 40’s, a lot of them have chronic pain resulting from the game.

    The game of football is dependent on Catholic and suburban high schools. How many of these parents are going to allow their sons to damage themselves at a young age?

    I love the game but I see changes coming.

  • JasonB

    Probably not. The direction it’s been going has been steadily towards a safer sport. Look at how far they’ve come from the days of leather helmets. And sports medicine and trainers provide better responses to injuries as opposed to just telling a player to “walk it off”. What needs to be kept in check are practices that utilize the equipment meant for protection as weapons against opponents, like the helmet.

  • Jeff

    I think that violence could pose a long-term threat to the sport if nothing is done to make the game safer. Look at what the NFL has done in the past few years, all sorts of new rules to help protect players in the most vulnerable positions. Look at the improvement in equipment the past few decades, the game is evolving right now…the violence is being toned down and players are getting more information everyday on the affects of the sport on their bodies/brains. The violence will never be fully removed from football but I think we’ll see more defensive players using textbook tackles rather than leading with their head for a big hit, if not for the other player’s safety it should be done for their own safety. I think football at the high school level isn’t as violent due to the smaller sizes of the players but those players should be taught the safe/proper way to tackle. Football can be a very valuable tool to teach kids and young adults about life, social skills and work ethic…let’s not scrap the whole thing without at least first trying to make the sport safer.

  • GregX

    the problem is violence enhanced by better :

    – uniforms and gear (players are invulnerable)

    – physical training and therapy ( bigger, badder and back at it faster – to sustain more injury)

    – drugs ( steroids, pain killers, mood corrections)

    – psychology and motivation programs

    – cultural pressure (marketing, fame, role-model)

    – corporate investment

    the result is a system that deifies the hit & win over the skill & effort. it’s the problem with America. It’s why Jaime Diamond and the JP Morgan don’t give a damn about how they win and who loses – as long as the try for the biggest prize. We need to expose those “playah’s” to more risk. In teh case of football – less protective equipment and a penalty for willfully injuring another player. For example – if you “tee-up” on an opponent and injure them you are out for the same number of plays they are. Offenders can’t “run-over” someone, defenders can’t “drop” someone.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Interesting you should say that, Kevin [“That fanaticism began to deteriorate by the late-00’s, as the game became more violent with bigger, faster, stronger players, and an increase (in my opinion) in the thirst for violence surrounding the game.”]. As I understand it, football has actually been getting marginally safer over the years. Maybe you just wised up and became aware of just how violent it is, and continues to be, and will always be. As long as people want violent spectator sports, the free market will provide it.

  • KevinVC


    Sad thing is there are people who only think like a troll/orc/caveman and words like “HULK SMASH!” seem to mutter from their mouths…..

    And punching bags do not seem to give them the same release…. Seems only if its a living person getting beaten to a pulp seems to entertain them.

    Honestly its a issue of BULLYING and getting them to learn beating up on others does not prove anything and I suggest shock therapy anytime the urge comes…. and just multiply the voltage by increments of prime numbers every time they get the urge….

    Sports have become less about sports, the act of working together to achieve a goal. And more and more about show boating or violence.

    And I know a few professional sports players who have seen this.

    The direction does not come from the players but the owners. Owners who often are billionaires… who often trade on the cut throat world of wallstreet… who have a strange idea of economic eugenics…

    And seem to think they OWN us… and we are serfs…..

    Slaves…. Inferior…. easily outsourced….

    We the unworthy…

  • daniel j

    I believe that the long-term fate of football rests not with the NFL, the commissioner, the players’ union or anyone else directly associated with the game. The insurance industry will make the decision. Their actuaries will look at the data and determine that there is too much risk and exposure for an insurance company to cover someone who plays football, or has a history of playing football. It’ll be a checkbox on the application alongside “do you smoke?”, “ride a motorcycle?”, “skydive?”, etc. People will still be able to play football, but their insurance premiums will be through the roof, if they can get insurance at all. And NO company will carry their long-term health insurance. No percentage in it. Football will decline because no one will be able to afford it.