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Injuries in sports-are we part of the problem?

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In recent times, there has been plenty of discussion about the increase in serious injuries occurring in sports. From concussions in the NFL, to life- threatening skiing injuries at the Winter Olympics, we have witnessed athletes take extreme risks to compete in the sports that they love.

Many questions have been asked of athletes as to why they are prepared to take on life-threatening consequences simply to participate in a game. Most of the general public seems to have little problem watching adults make their own decisions and risk debilitating consequences.

However, are we as spectatators just as responsible for these injuries as the participants themselves? Are we a part of the problem because we watch these athletes compete in dangerous sports?

On Sept. 4, Melissa Jeltson composed an article titled ‘The Moral Case Against Football’ that was published in the Huffington Post. Throughout the article, Jeltson raised several questions that are well-worth considering. “Is it immoral to consume violent entertainment that can result in dire, even deadly consequences for its participants? Is it immoral to cheer for a dazzling show, knowing it could cause its stars to develop dementia or memory loss or depression?” Jelston said. She takes away the focus from athletes’ decisions to participate in dangerous games and asks the audience to justify why they are prepared to witness such atrocities.

Particularly when it comes to entertainment such as the NFL, the fact that we passively accept men shortening their lives considerably and risking serious mental issues simply to play a game is disturbing. New York Times bestselling author Steve Almond finds the issue intriguing.

“Football is a remarkably exciting game, but it also reinforces a lot of basic American pathologies around race, violence, greed, sexuality, sexual orientation, and we give a free pass,” Almond said. “We don’t even think of it as something that deserves moral scrutiny, when it’s the biggest thing in America. And that’s nuts.”

The relationship between football and severe health issues is becoming painfully clear. It would be hard to find a single NFL game where a player was not injured in some form and sadly concussions are a common viewing occurrence. Why are we happy to witness this?

The issue doesn’t apply only to the NFL, but to other sports such as hockey, boxing and skiing. There are numerous popular sports in which participants are clearly in severe risk of damaging themselves. Many argue that as long as athletes are willing to put themselves at risk, the problem will continue to exist.

It seems as though we are caught in a vicious cycle. There are constantly athletes who are willing to put themselves in the way of physical harm and viewers who are willing to witness it.

With the recent damning studies revealing the long-term consequences of impacts to the head, the long-term prognosis for athletes in contact sports is dire. The solution seems simple. If we stop watching these sports, changes will almost undoubtedly be made.

Perhaps the problem will only go away if we stop watching.

nolans@stolaf.edu

Graphic Credit: ETHAN BOOTE/MANITOU MESSENGER