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Why We Need Safer Sports

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Depending on who you ask, the love of sports is one of the defining tenets of what it means to be an American. While sports are, for the most part, an exhilarating experience that can teach young and old alike about working together and adhering to a set of rules, the simple fact is that sports in the United States are wildly dangerous and each and every time we let our children onto the field we are putting them at risk of injury. Though safety has come a long way when it comes to contact sports, there is still much work to do when it comes to protecting current and future players.

Contact Sports Are Inherently Dangerous

The idea of the most violent, dangerous sports often conjures up images of MMA, boxing, rugby, and football. However, it is important to realize that any sport that incorporates contact or even presents the opportunity for contact can be incredibly dangerous. Soccer, basketball, and lacrosse, while having a generally low rate of injuries, still pose dangers to those playing them from collisions, falls, or any number of other factors that can’t be predicted.

Yes, some sports are going to be more dangerous than others simply due to the nature of the game. Looking at hockey, there is no wonder that there is a huge record of serious injuries considering the fact that contact and fighting are encouraged all while skating around on sharpened metal blades. Football, a game dependent on tackling at full force, consistently results in concussions that can lead to serious health issues down the road like CTE as well as increased risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, not to mention the horrific injuries that can occur to players’ extremities. Joe Theismann’s leg break, anyone?

While we shouldn’t try to dictate what sports people can participate in, we should certainly take the time to inform and educate everyone on how dangerous sports can really be. Adults can make informed decisions on their own, but America’s youth simply cannot fathom how dangerous sports can be or how a serious injury in their youth can impact them throughout their entire lives.

There is Far Too Little Regulation

The simple truth of the matter is that without appropriate regulation, professional sports would result in far more injuries than they currently have today. New rules and regulations in sports aren’t put in place to anger fans, but to ensure that they can continue to enjoy the sport for years to come as they protect those that play.

Those on both sides of the aisle are prone to lament the politicization of sports, whether over Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protesting or Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ black power salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. The arguments against these acts revolve around the so-called “soul” of sportsmanship, but an issue that is far more pressing than deriding the peaceful protest of police brutality is the fact that players of contact sports are suffering from preventable injuries that severely affect their lives for years after they are injured.

No one wants to stop athletes from doing what they love, but it is imperative that more regulations be put in place to protect both professional athletes and youth athletes from injury. The spirit of sports won’t be diminished from implementing new rules and regulations designed to protect players and will still be a great way for people to learn about leadership and teamwork, but in a safer manner than currently exists.

We Must Set A Precedent For Future Generations

For many of America’s kids, sports are not just a fun activity or an escape from everyday life but act as a ticket out of potentially poor socio-economic situations. Sports stars are idolized by adults and youths alike, and it is important that these athletes not only stay healthy but also to champion regulations that increase safety in all levels of sports. Like it or not, professional athletes are public figures and hold a huge amount of sway, so their actions and positions are taken very seriously among fans.

This is why it is so important that athletes today try to lead by example for future generations. Player behavior both on and off the field is likely to be emulated, and it is vital that athletes be held accountable for their behavior and encouraged to help change their sport for the better. While professional sports organizations might fight against new safety measures out of fear of declining attendance or viewership, it is the players that really hold the keys to the kingdom when it comes to setting an example for what sports can and should be about.

Safety in sports is necessary for their continued existence. If contact sports like football continue to refuse to address safety issues, fewer families will be inclined to let their kids play and risk traumatic injury. This is the true battle for the soul of sports, because if there is no one left to play and enjoy them, then what is the point?

Safety and regulation in sports is a contentious issue, but one that must be addressed. It doesn’t matter if someone feels as though increased safety rules ruin the game for them because it isn’t about their individual enjoyment, but about the longevity of players and even the sports themselves.

Posted by jhamilton at April 22, 2020 11:25 AM
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