Concussions and the NFL: Do head injuries change the way fans view the game?

Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin suffered a concussion in the divisional round vs. the Saints. Harvin missed the NFC Championship game as a result of his injury.

By: Joe Kelly, Guest Blogger

Watching football used to be easy. I could sit down on a Saturday or Sunday and settle in for hours of enjoyment. Fast guys, fat guys, and guys seemingly made of steel would keep me entertained all day long.
Something else I enjoyed were the big hits. At school or work, much of the talk would revolve around which player “dropped the hammer” on another, or who really “got their bell rung” during the game. The best part of that was it was them, not us who were getting knocked around the field. A second thought was never given to how much it might affect the players.
Now that we are starting to learn what affects playing football can have on a person, it has changed how I watch. Knowing that big hits or even just repeated hits to the head can cause major damage, I’ve become somewhat conflicted.
With this internal conflict, I set out to see how others feel about the subject by conducting a survey.
The survey consisted of ten questions, involving queries about how often they watch football, favorite part of the game, and safety measures.
The majority of respondents were male, and between the ages of 25 and 34. This wasn’t too big of a surprise, since that is within the group of who the NFL and NCAA target most. Men made up about 72 percent of the responses, and the 25-34 age group made up about 48 percent.
Pro football was the most popular choice when asked which they prefer, pro or college. And on the question of what their favorite part of the game is, almost 80 percent said they enjoyed the whole game overall, as opposed to just certain parts, like touchdowns or big hits. In fact, only seven percent said big hits were their favorite part of the game.
This question led into the heart of my curiosity. Will people still watch if there is a conclusive link between brain damage and playing football? Nearly 80 percent said they will still watch, certainly an overwhelming majority. Only a few said they wouldn’t watch, or that there is no way to make a conclusive link. One person commented “(they) know that they are risking their lives and choose to do so”. That comment came from a woman who answered that she would still watch regardless. Overall, 75 percent of females who responded said the same.
If people are still willing to watch knowing the risks the players are taking, do they think the NFL is doing enough to try and keep their players safe? Again, about 80 percent think so. Whether through good public relations, marketing or other ways, the NFL has done it’s job to keep viewers.
Improved safety measures won’t take away from the enjoyment of the game, according to half of the respondents. However, about the same amount feel like the game as we know it today won’t be the same in ten years. One respondent said they will still watch, as long as it doesn’t change too much, saying, “I think it’s important to promote safety in football, especially the head and neck areas.” They added, “however, I believe I will still watch football as long as contact is not completely engineered out of the game”.
The most even answer came when asked if football is safe right now. 40 percent don’t think it is currently, and 20 percent do. The other 40 percent said they will still watch either way.
No one can be sure what the future holds for football. I don’t think I will resolve the conflict I’m having anytime soon, and it doesn’t seem like others will either. It looks like they are willing to watch no matter what, and it will take a lot for them to stop. As long as that happens, the NFL’s TV ratings will continue to skyrocket.

Joe Kelly has lived in Chicago since 2012. Having moved here from Philadelphia,he is still a die hard Philly sports fan, whether that’s good or bad.

One thought on “Concussions and the NFL: Do head injuries change the way fans view the game?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Good article about interesting subject.

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