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Can’t in Good Conscience Watch the Super Bowl

I used to like football. I thought I wanted to play football in high school, but I was overruled by the adults in my life. But I played in the powder puff games in high school and played intramural flag football in during undergrad. It was fun.

Football was fun to watch . . . sometimes. The guys who play at the college and professional level are incredible athletes. And then I saw the movie, Concussion:

This film made me more aware of the dangers of repetitive head trauma facing football players. It can cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that led to several players’ emotional downfall, and several committed suicide. I knew concussions were a risk in this sport, but I didn’t know it was this bad.

Dr. Bennet Omalu, who was portrayed by Will Smith in the film, estimates that 90% of NFL players have CTE. Unfortunately, this disease can only be diagnosed after death. What’s repulsive is the NFL seems to care more about the money than protecting players’ health and safety. I was pleased to see several players retire early after learning about the risks of CTE.

Knowing what I know, I can’t in good conscious support full-contact football. I can’t even attend a Super Bowl party because it’s based on supporting a sport that’s killing people.

I could support football again if they changed the rules to flag football. It would change the strategy of the game and what skills and abilities are valued in players. Baseball and basketball are comparatively low-contact sports and people enjoy them.

Goal Post 2 by Matt Denton from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I asked my friends what they thought of the idea of changing all American football leagues (pop warner – professional) to flag football rules. Some of their reactions were disconcerting:

  • Millions of Americans would lose their favorite means of acting physically aggressive by proxy.
  • I honestly think the vast majority of football fans are like the casual hockey fan – they watch to see the “hits”.
  • There would be way fewer head injuries. Many rabid football fans would also cry about their sport being corrupted by liberal worrywarts, no doubt.
  • It would not be worth watching.

I don’t understand how anyone can endorse and enjoy a sport that is slowly and painfully killing its players. Thankfully some of the responses had a different perspective:

  • It would probably be considerably less popular. But it also might attain a following a “strategy” game.
  • It would stop being a professional sport in the U.S. but would still be a popular sport for kids. I’m thinking something like volleyball in the U.S.
  • The sport would die (and it’s about time it did).

If that’s the price for keeping people alive, I’m ok with that. So, what will Rosie and I be doing this Sunday?

Yes, I’ll be gleefully working on my taxes.
“Gleefully” may be overstating it, but I’ll be happy when they’re done.

SALK Day 30 – Combat PTSD

Today’s sponsor asked me to write about the current problem of soldiers not getting the support and services they need when they return from serving overseas with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Since I used to be a licensed professional counselor in Arizona, I have some thoughts on this topic.  Just to be clear, I have treated veterans in the past, I have no personal experience treating veterans with PTSD after returning from combat and this blog should not be viewed as mental health advice.

PTSD occurs in people who have experienced a traumatic event that involved a threat of death or serious injury that results in intense fear, helplessness, or horror.  A person who has PTSD experiences recurring intrusive thoughts regarding the traumatic event such as flashbacks or nightmares.  They tend to be more detached from others, have a restricted range of emotions, have difficulties related to sleep, controlling their anger, and concentrating.

A Seabee maintains security by manning an M60 ...
Image via Wikipedia

PTSD is referred to as the invisible war wound.  A recent survey showed that nearly 1 in 5 soldiers returning from Iraq had symptoms of PTSD.  This is a striking increase from a 2004 a study showed that 1 in 8 returning soldiers had symptoms of PTSD.  Some believe that the problem is more serious than these statistics suggest and is being made worse because of the long tours of duty and occupation of Iraq.  The 2004 study showed that only half of the soldiers who had symptoms of PTSD were receiving treatment.  Some of the barriers to treatment were fears about how they would be perceived by their peers and that it would negatively impact their military careers.

Since 2001, approximately 2 million troops have been deployed to Iraq.  If 20% of them have or have had PTSD as a result of their combat service, that’s 400,000 people who would benefit from mental health services and nearly 200,000 who aren’t getting the services they need.

Unfortunately, this is not an easy problem to treat.  Symptoms may not become apparent immediately after returning combat and it may take months or years treatment.  PTSD is a complex mental illness and isn’t something that a person can handle on their own, and often the love from family and friends isn’t enough.  When PTSD goes untreated, the person often has trouble with interpersonal relationships and may self-medicate their symptoms with drugs or alcohol.  In the last four years, there have been frightening  increases in the number of suicides in active and non-active duty soldiers.  It would not be surprised if this is related in part to untreated PTSD.

There are some wonderful online resources for soldiers that specifically address combat PTSD and the unique needs and experiences of soldiers and their loved ones.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsor is Katrina Holland.  For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

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