The people that know about football know nothing about the brain, and the people who know about the brain know nothing about football.
I know a little bit about both. Here's my 2¢:
I played football all through high school from freshman to senior. During my sophomore year, I never left the field. Kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return, every play on offense, every play on defense. I played pretty much every position on the field from nose tackle to linebacker and defensive back to quarterback to receiver.
Are you interested in having your kids play football? Are you wondering if the years you played may have left a residual effect on your brain? Here are a few things that you should know:
Other sports have head injuries. A lot of the popular press points this out. They say "Well, you hit your head in soccer when you head the ball." "When you play hockey you can get checked, that can cause a head injury." Of course they're both true. You could potentially have a head injury in almost any sport. Absolutely. No question. You could hit your head a few times a game.
What most folks don't realize is that in football you hit your head on almost every play. You are either blocking someone, trying to run over someone or falling. When you fall in football it is not a controlled fall. There's a variety of forces -usually other peoples bodies-- that impact the trajectory of your fall. All control is gone. Also, a lot of the time your hands are full, usually with somebody else's jersey.
As you fall your head hits the ground. It may hit many other things on the way to the ground, but it will almost always hit at the ground. When your head hits the ground the skull stops, but the brain keeps going. In fact, during any hit to the head in football, the brain keeps going...
And because the brain keeps going players cannot be protected by any kind of helmet. This is because, once again, the head will stop, the skull will stop, but because the brain is in fluid (cerebrospinal fluid) the brain will keep going. And you might think, who cares? So it keeps going but the skull is really smooth and so it hits a smooth area and it kind of sloshes around a little bit. So what? The impact wouldn't be significant enough to damage the brain. This is where a pretty intimate knowledge about the anatomy of the skull is important. People think of the skull they think of a really smooth surface. In fact, only the top half of the skull is smooth.
The bottom half is so convoluted and has pieces that are so sharp, that if you pressed your hand into it with a few pounds of force, you would open the skin. So as the brain continues to move forward it is scraped against these many sharp edges that stick up into the bottom of the brain. And because there is a head hit in every play (okay not every play, you may be a decoy and not have to hit anybody. But for most positions almost play the head will get hit. I played QB for a year. I took the worst hits that year) the brain will be scraping every time. There is no good data on what this does to the brain. Everybody is focused on concussions, but because this ("scraping)" is done over and over and over to the brain, it may actually be more damaging in the long term.
So how many hits do high school player take to the head?
A high school football player may take anywhere from 200 to 1,800 hits to the head during the course of a single season.
So is your game is above the organ that most makes us human?