So, before I get this ball rolling, I would just like to say that I don’t have anything against sports in general or athletics per se. I think that there are some really great sports out there that do a great job of teaching people teamwork and physical fitness. I know that sports have provided many low income students with scholarships and opportunities to move up the socio-economic ladder. Thanks to my brother (who is a CrossFit trainer) and my wife (who is a nutrition guru), over the last few years I have become more and more interested in (and understanding of) physical health and its importance in the life of a believer. Additionally, I grew up playing sports as a kid, I enjoy watching sports, and every so often I’ll join in on a little b-ball outside o’ da school.
But, there are sports that I am becoming increasingly cautious of. In fact, in some sense, I’m all-out concerned about the existence of some sports. And these would be those sports that do damage to a person. Now, of course, people can get hurt in pretty much any sport. Someone could pull a muscle, roll their ankle, or get blindsided by a flying ball. But in many sports those sort of things aren’t supposed to happen. Basketball players aren’t supposed to pull a hamstring. A soccer player should see that ball coming at their head (and maybe throw their head back at it). Ice skaters are meant to keep their faces off the ice.
However, in some sports, taking brutal blows is an inherent part of the game. You’re supposed to hit the other person in the face in boxing. It’s normal for a 200 pound guy to slam into you in football and rugby. If someone’s not on the floor bleeding by the end of a UFC fight, people want their pay-per-view money back. I even had a friend of mine that plays hockey explain to me that fighting, far from being a mere outburst of childish rage, is actually a legitimate strategy in controlling the momentum of the game.
And all of this gets compounded when we allow young people to engage in these sports, even as their bodies are still developing. I didn’t realize this until a couple years ago, but apparently the concussion rate among teen athletes is becoming a serious problem. Among minors alone there are literally millions
of concussions every year. As a result of this, “An estimated 5.3 million Americans live with a traumatic brain injury-related disability (CDC).” For more information, check out this article on Sports Concussion Statistics
I mean, how many times have we heard about a high school or college student blowing out their ACL? These aren’t old people. These aren’t folks that have experienced a full life of hard work and strenuous physical exertion. These are kids. Teenagers. That can’t be natural, or even okay. People shouldn’t be having joint reconstruction surgery before they’re even old enough to buy an adult beverage. And, of course, this isn’t just a “save the children” issue. This is a problem for adults as well.
I’ve been told that the amount of trauma a professional football player’s body sustains in a regular season is equivalent to being in a 30 mile per hour car accident for each and every game. Now, admittedly, a 30 mile per hour car accident isn’t the most dangerous thing in and of itself. But that adds up pretty quickly when you are in one week after week for an entire season.
And for what? Entertainment? Is it really worth the health and safety of these athletes just so that we can fill out our brackets and enjoy our fantasy leagues? … especially when there are so many other, much safer sports that we could be supporting.
Take a moment to think about this: back in the Roman empire they had arenas dedicated to watching people fight one another. People people were injured, people died. And all for the glory of Rome and the entertainment of the crowd. And we all look back on that and say, “How barbaric! How uncivilized! They devalued their fellow humans so much.”
But are we really that much better? Now, I know what some of you are thinking. I mean, yeah, our athletes are usually participating in their sport out of their own freewill. And, yeah, we have great athletic trainers and medical professionals standing by. And, sure, the point of our games isn’t for someone to actually get killed. But let’s just be honest for a second. We have created a culture in which human beings are systematically damaged for our entertainment.
Now, I understand that this isn’t a clear-cut, black-and-white sort of problem. It’s not that there are two kinds of sport, blood sports and safe sports. There’s a whole gradation of factors. But where do we draw the line? When do we say stop, enough is enough? At what point is there enough injuries for us to finally decide to do something about it? And once we’ve hit that breaking point, what should we do then?
I honestly don’t have a lot of definitive answers on this. So I pose the question to you: