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Editor at Large

Time to outlaw football?

A quarter-century ago, yours truly wrote an editorial for a daily newspaper about how one could make a good case to outlaw the sport of football.

Injuries in football seemed to far outpace injuries in other sports – thus the reason behind the editorial.

This was well before the controversy that exists today about the potential connection between concussions sustained in football and the number of former players posthumously diagnosed with CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease.

Banning football won’t occur anytime soon, if ever, because it is big business on the professional level. Perhaps the second biggest sport of them all, besides global soccer.

But one must wonder if the likely link between playing football and CTE will curtail the number of youth who play the sport, something that eventually will hurt college and pro football.

On one hand, a parent might not allow his or her child to play football, saying the ultimate risk of CTE and other injuries is too high.

On the other hand, children love to compete, and some see football as a way to get to college and perhaps escape the environment where they are being raised. In fact, they may think it’s their only and best hope for a better life.

The thought here is that youth football will, indeed, see fewer numbers of participants, and here’s why:

-- Affluent families probably do not need to worry about their child obtaining a college education. Their children will be guided toward other sports.

-- Lacrosse, which has some of the same elements and skill sets as football, is emerging as a popular alternative to the gridiron.

-- As more evidence links football to CTE, more parents of all socioeconomic classes also will forbid football.

-- Eventually, the government and school directors will get involved, and flag football might end up being the only option for youth.

The editorial from 25 years ago drew some responses from football coaches, who said, among other things, that the sport builds character.

Having played high school football – not very well, I might add – I concur that it does build character.

But for youth, so do playing on the basketball or track team, acting in musicals and making an argument in debate club. And they have a far smaller chance of causing a debilitating injury or leading to a future medical calamity.

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