Tony Reinke asks this question in response to a particularly brutal NFL game that occurred last week between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals. After hearing several sports writers and commentators talk about the brutality of that Monday night game, Tony was left asking a serious question. And rather than answer the question himself, he reached out to six friends to give him a brief (250 words or less) answer to his question. Dr. David Prince was one of those Tony asked to respond to his question. Below is Tony’s initial question and Dr. Prince’s response. A link to the whole article with the other responses is below.
Assuming the accuracy of major reports on the degenerative brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy found often in the brains of former American football players, and assuming concussions remain a common part of the game today, and assuming a Christian is aware of all this, is a Christian who buys a game ticket or team merchandise for an NFL or NCAA football team complicit in funding a system that will likely lead to CTE consequences later in a player’s life? Yes or no? Why or why not?
Dr. Prince’s Response
No — if the word “likely” is retained. At this time, the research simply does not support that strong a statement.
Yes — if we replace “likely” with “could” lead to CTE. But no more so than we are complicit in funding a system that leads to the deaths of loggers and fishermen, America’s two deadliest occupations (and at tragically high rates). Commercial logging workers lose their lives on the job at a rate of 127.8 per 100,000 full-time workers and fishing-related professionals lose their lives at a rate of 117 per 100,000 full-time workers (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Thus, every time we enjoy seafood or purchase commercially made furniture, we are complicit in creating demand for occupations that lead to those deaths. Neither occupation is necessary for our personal human sustenance.
Likewise, football is a rough sport and, played at elite levels, it poses some significant health risks. The link between CTE, concussions, and the repeated contact in a collision sport like football should continue to be studied, and the game should, as it has repeatedly done, take measures to improve player safety. Players should be informed of the inherent risks in the same way a doctor must explain the inherent risks of a surgical procedure before he operates. But we must not only listen to the most alarmist voices and assume headlines are fact.
For instance, did you know that NFL football players are less likely to commit suicide than the general population in the United States? Based on the media narrative, probably not. In fact, pastors (like me) have a higher suicide rate than NFL football players. A Christian should make all decisions, including sporting ones, in light of their faith. For me, as of now, I enjoy football with a clear conscience, believing it brings far more cultural good than bad.
Do you agree with Dr. Prince? Let us know in the comments.
Check out the rest of the responses to Tony’s question here.