Donald Trump spoke to CBS in an interview broadcast today and gave some of his thoughts on the NFL and football in general. Despite bemoaning the fact in 2016 that, in his opinion, safety measures to combat concussions have made football “soft”, the president today said he’d rather his son Barron played soccer as football
Donald Trump spoke to CBS in an interview broadcast today and gave some of his thoughts on the NFL and football in general. Despite bemoaning the fact in 2016 that, in his opinion, safety measures to combat concussions have made football “soft”, the president today said he’d rather his son Barron played soccer as football is a “dangerous sport”.
“I just don’t like the reports that I see coming out having to do with football,” Trump said on CBS’s Face the Nation this morning. “I mean, it’s a dangerous sport and … I thought the equipment would get better, and it has. The helmets have gotten far better but it hasn’t solved the problem.
“So, you know, I hate to say it because I love to watch football. I think the NFL is a great product, but I really think that as far as my son, well I’ve heard NFL players saying they wouldn’t let their sons play football. So. It’s not totally unique, but I would have a hard time with it.”
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, which can only be diagnosed after death, has been found in hundreds of former football players although it is most commonly associated with NFL veterans rather than young athletes. Symptoms of CTE include depression, suicidal thoughts, memory loss and mood swings.
The specter of brain trauma – along with the controversy over the national anthem protests – was one of the reasons given for the NFL’s decline in ratings last season. Many people thought viewers no longer wanted to watch a sport that may end up killing many of its participants (although NFL ratings have risen again this season).
There’s little doubt that brain trauma concerns the NFL. Several high-profile former players have taken their own lives, including two players who starred for one of today’s Super Bowl teams, the New England Patriots. Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau took his own life in 2012 and Aaron Hernandez ended his own life in prison in 2017 while serving a life sentence for murder. Both men were later found to have been suffering from CTE at the times of their death. Significantly, Seau shot himself in the chest, which meant his brain could be studied after his death.
It’s not just professional players who suffer brain trauma however. Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski was suffering from CTE when he took his own life in 2018, according to his family. “[Tyler] had the brain of a 65-year-old, which is really hard to take,” his father, Mark, said.
CTE fears appear to be hitting football at its roots. Recent studies have shown that high school football participation rates have dropped in recent years just as “safer” sports such as baseball, soccer and basketball are growing.
There are signs that the NFL’s measures to make the game safer – such as discouraging helmet-to-helmet tackles, strengthening checks for concussion during games and developing safer equipment – are working. Concussions were down 29% in the 2018 regular season, although many would argue that even a single concussion is one too many.