The NCAA should be concerned. Defensive tackle Eric LeGrand of Rutgers was paralyzed from the neck down after a special-teams hit on Saturday. Penalties haven't been increased as these players volunteer for their schools and their teammates. No guaranteed millions or ex-players' associations, although I believe (hope?) universities have a good track record of taking care of their own.
That's 7 people. At least, in the headlines. Even if that's all the injuries, a new study indicates damage at much lower thresholds. Purdue University followed 21 high school football players, and while 4 had concussions, 4 other players with no evident symptoms suffered a greater decrease in cognitive function than the concussed players. That's high school players with no symptoms.
"We've confirmed what a few other researchers have hinted at: There is something going on and it doesn't manifest itself with symptoms," said the article's co-author Larry Leverenz, a clinical professor in the department of health and kinesiology and an athletic trainer at Purdue.The study was too small for statistical significance, but doesn't it suggest we need significant studies? If the Purdue study is off by an order of magnitude, that's still one in 30 players - 1-3 on each high school team, 3 on each college team, 2 on each NFL team. And I don't think anyone thinks the effects are that rare.
I hope the NFL's new penalties work. I hope they find a way to trickle down the effects to college and high school. Until then, I hope people stop subjecting their children to these unquantified but KNOWN risks.