Examining Whether Playing Football is Worth It

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There is virtually no one who will disagree with the assessment that football is a violent sport. That’s self-evident. If you watch any game, you’ll see bone-jarring hits that closely resemble car accidents.


Many doctors make that comparison as well. That’s because they often see football injuries that are strikingly similar to those they might see from a violent car collision. Here you have highly-trained, tremendously strong athletes who crash into each other at top speed, and they can do so legally according to the rules.


In this article, we’ll take a few moments to talk about whether playing football is worth it, and we’ll break down why many young men still feel like it is.


Common Football Injuries

Let’s start by looking at some common football injuries. In football, you will often see:


  • TBIs
  • Broken bones
  • Sprains, strains, and muscle tears


A TBI is a traumatic brain injury. A concussion is one example. They happen in football all the time, and according to CDC data, about half of severe TBI recipients eventually need surgery.


Football players who experience multiple concussions while playing, as so many of them do, can expect cognitive decline. They might experience both short and long-term memory loss, violent mood swings, depression, chronic pain, blurred vision, and more.


Some broken bones never heal correctly, and if a football player tries to continue their career after suffering one, they might never walk again if they suffer damage to that weakened area a second time.


Alex Smith’s Injury

As we examine whether playing football should be worth it to so many young men, we need to look at Alex Smith’s situation. Alex Smith once played for the San Francisco 49ers. He ended up with the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins, currently the Washington Football Team as they await their official name change.


In a game a couple of years ago, Alex Smith:



The leg injury was reminiscent of what happened years before to the great Joe Theismann when Lawrence Taylor landed awkwardly on him. Taylor weighed 243 pounds, and his body weight decimated Theismann’s right leg.


Theismann never played again. Ironically, the former quarterback was in attendance at the game where the same thing happened to Alex Smith.


The Comeback

Alex Smith’s leg injury nearly killed him. He had to undergo 17 surgeries over several months. At one point, he and his doctors considered amputating the leg because of how bad the damage was.


However, unbelievably, Alex Smith not only got back on an NFL roster, he returned to the field. As the Washington Football Team’s quarterback, he defeated the previously unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers just a couple of weeks ago, ending their undefeated season bid.


What Can We Take from All This?

Some people will tell you that Alex Smith’s comeback is storybook stuff, the human spirit’s triumph, a Hallmark moment, etc. There’s no doubt he showed great fortitude getting himself back into football shape after such an ordeal.


However, others might call his return insanity and stupidity rather than a triumph or a feel-good story. Alex Smith has a wife and multiple children. One has to wonder what his wife and kids feel about him getting back on the field.


If you ask Alex Smith why he did it, you would probably get some variation of what all football players say when you mention the concussions, broken bones, and the car-crash hits. He would probably say that he loves the game. Football players do seem to love what it is they do, even if it never loves them back.


Being a football player is like being in an abusive relationship. It’s like being with that partner who knocks you around while you keep insisting they’re going to change. Every time a football player gets through a professional game without another player completely taking their head off, it’s a minor miracle.


It’s true that sports encourage camaraderie, and it’s true that if kids get into sports while in school, they’re not as likely to get mixed up with drugs and gangs. It’s also accurate that football players can make millions of dollars, at least if they make it to the upper echelons.


But is it worth it? That’s not an easy query to answer, but looking at Alex Smith out on the field, it’s hard for the casual fan to watch without feeling a little queasy.