President Barack Obama is a huge football fan, but says he probably wouldn’t let his son play college football because of the risk of long-term physical damage as well as concussion-related brain damage.
“I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football,” Obama told New Republic. “And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence.”
Obama says the violence in both college and professional football makes the game more exciting for viewers, but extremely dangerous for players.
“In some cases, [less violence] may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much,” says Obama, who has two daughters, Malia, 14, and Malia, 11.
Obama is more concerned for college football players because NFL stars get compensated for the damage they suffer physically, while student-athletes do not.
“I tend to be more worried about college players than NFL players in the sense that the NFL players have a union, they’re grown men, they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies,” he says.
“You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That’s something that I’d like to see the NCAA think about.”
The recent suicides of several former National Football League players has shone a spotlight on the devastating long-term brain damage many football players suffer due to repeated head trauma and concussions.
Two weeks ago, the family of former New England Patriots linebacker Junior Seau filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the NFL alleging the league deliberately concealed evidence of the link between football-related head injuries and long-term brain damage.
A posthumous analysis of Junior’s brain showed that Seau suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a condition diagnosed in more than 30 former NFL stars. Patients with CTE often suffer from impulsivity, forgetfulness, depression, dementia and suicidal tendencies.
Seau, who committed suicide in May 2012, experienced mood changes, depression and insomnia before he died, according to his ex-wife, Gina Seau.
Seau died at age 43 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, as did former NFL stars Ray Easterling and Dave Duerson. In December 2012, former baseball star Ryan Freel shot himself to death at the age of 36. Freel had suffered nine to 10 concussions during his Major League Baseball career.