I have been an involved fan of football for more than 60 years. I am a witness to the development of the game, including the increase in size and strength of players. The spectacular hits are impressive. On the other hand, the maiming of many players — tears to muscles, tendons and ligaments, as well as damage to joints and the decrease of cognitive ability and limited mobility of retired veterans, are a real outcome of the game.
Attitudes of coaches and players have changed. Many involved in the sport say football is a violent game. Studies indicate continual hits, not only great hits, but frequent small hits can cause permanent brain damage.
I think the decision to return football to East Tennessee State University would be an immoral decision. An institution involved in the education of people should not support a program that it knows will lead to physical and mental injury. The damages are permanent. The greatest of concern is infliction of permanent damage to the brain. To want football on campus is, I feel, mostly an emotional response, instead of a knowledgeable and practical response.
Though the decision to drop football several years ago was driven by lack of financial resources, one can look at it as being ahead of the curve. National Public Radio recently reported on the permanent injuries resulting from playing football. Concussion was the main point of the story. The story addressed school districts looking at football and concussions. Though they are few in number, some districts are taking action to drop middle and high school football programs. As reported, some for financial reasons, but others are dropping football for the reason of injury.
I would venture a guess legal action will raise its ugly head in football in the next few years with personal injury as the focus. Think back when we first heard of someone suing McDonald’s for causing one to become fat or being burned by hot coffee. Many of us laughed. These were personal injury cases. Look at the cultural shift caused by these cases.
I urge the university to make a moral decision and not re-introduce football.
Fred Huestis lives in Johnson City.