This has been discussed before but the results of a new study were recently released. Question – will there be a sport of football in a decade or two? A new study released last week at an American Academy of Neurology conference shows pretty definitively that playing professional football is highly damaging to your brain. More than 40% of retired players have evidence of traumatic brain injury (seen via MRI scans). Prior studies have shown that 96% of deceased professional players have brain degeneration (from autopsy data). 79% of players across all levels - high school, college, and pro - have brain degeneration. I guess you could argue that professional players get paid a lot and can make their own decisions. But, the average player makes $1.9 million per season and has an average career length of 3.5 seasons, so $6.7 million before taxes and agent fees. 3.5 seasons gets you a 96% chance of brain injury. Take out the top 10% of contracts and the average dollars falls precipitously. High school players don’t get anything for risking, well, at these levels of injury you can’t call it a risk. High school and college players don’t get paid anything for injuring their brains. So, can football survive? Will parents continue to allow their children to risk lifelong debilitating injury knowing that the risk of some level of injury is well-nigh certain? If the pool of high school players dries up there will be no college players. If college players go away, who will play in the NFL? I saw that someone had suggested you could fix the problem simply by changing a few rules and getting rid of helmets. Or maybe going back to leather ones. Rugby players don’t wear helmets and as far as I can find, don’t have anywhere near the risk of brain injury. The basic skills and interest of the game would seem the same without helmets and the constant head pounding would by and large go away. Add in some serious concussion protocols and maybe you could bring the risk down to an acceptable level – though what that would be is hard to determine. Whither football?