Libresco: The game’s not worth the risk

Yale students wouldn’t turn out to spectate and cheer for a car accident, so why is our campus so excited for football?

On Saturday, when our team goes out to roughhouse poor old Harvard, the members of the football team may be inflicting and sustaining injuries that could have long-lasting effects. Football’s head-to-head collisions can cause serious concussions. Although players may not suffer immediate harm — not all concussions result in a loss of consciousness, and some pass unnoticed unless players are tested with brain scans — the damage may cause serious mental degeneration later in life.

According to a 2000 study conducted by Barry Jordan, the director of the Brain Injury Program at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, over 60 percent of NFL players have experienced at least one concussion. A quarter of the players surveyed had been concussed three or more times. A 2007 study from University of North Carolina’s Center for the Study of Retired Athletes found that players who had suffered three or more concussions experienced depression three times more often than players who had never been concussed. Upon autopsy, the brains of NFL players and boxers (who suffer similar rates of concussion) look like those of elderly patients with advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Much of the fault for this epidemic of concussion-induced dementia lies with the NFL, which is tasked with protecting its players, but some measure of blame falls on football fans who watched the body-shaking collisions and did not wonder about the possible toll on players. Sports fans endorse lax regulation with every championship ticket they buy, every jersey they wear and every game they watch.

Too often, we ignore the ways our media consumption habits make us culpable for harmful trends. The steroid scandal in baseball is being driven by a competitive arms race among teams, but also by the increasing focus on sluggers and home run records, rather than the game as a whole. Fans who cheered players who were clearly juicing are being disingenuous when they express shock and horror when doping is proven.

Our outrage at the steroid scandal exposes our own hypocrisy when it comes to the health of players. Steroid users are criticized for cheating, but we also claim that the list of harmful side effects from steroid use is what makes these athletes poor role models for children. Why should we treat “artificially” induced harm as intrinsically more dangerous or despicable than the “all-natural” consequences of their sports? Excellence in athletics frequently puts pressure on athletes to take unnecessary chances with their bodies. If we cheer for these sports, we cannot absolve ourselves of moral culpability when athletes come to harm.

After all, football and boxing are not the only sports to have racked up a body count. Some injuries are the result of pushing promising athletes to begin intensive training and play too early (witness the growing number of teenage Little League players who require elbow reconstruction surgery), but plenty of sports are intrinsically destabilizing to the body (female gymnasts usually have delayed onset of puberty as a result of their training regimes).

The physical strains suffered by many athletes are worrisome, but their choice to leverage future discomfort against current success and profit could be defensible. But the head injuries suffered by football players and boxers are uniquely horrifying because they result in mental rather than physical degeneration. The family members of these players, like those of Alzheimer’s patients, feel as though their loved ones have been stolen from them, as the players’ personalities are gradually erased by their disease. This is among the most horrific ways to die.

It is incumbent upon us to ask how Yale players are being protected from concussions and how effective the NCAA’s regulations, which are currently in the process of being revised, are limiting head-to-head contact. We have a duty to our fellow students to ensure their college years aren’t putting them at risk for serious brain damage in the future. If you’re dissatisfied with the current regulations, or if you’ve never taken the time to check them out, you shouldn’t be cheering during the scrimmages on Saturday.

Leah Libresco is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College.


  • River Tam

    > Yale students wouldn’t turn out to spectate and cheer for a car accident, so why is our campus so excited for football?

    Because people drive cars with the expectation of colliding.

  • Sara

    Just be careful wandering around Cambridge. There have been more dangerous armed robberies, and shootings at police officers, just in the past week or so than in an entire 4-year period at Yale.

  • RexMottram08

    Yale players do not risk injury to seek profit from the NFL.

    Yale players do it for the LOVE of the game.

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    Oy veh. Here we go…

    [Five New Haven shootings over Halloween weekend ALONE.][1]

    [TWENTY ONE HOMICIDES in New Haven so far in 2010 (versus 13 in 2009).][2]

    [Yalie muggings galore!][3]

    Wooster Square, pointing guns at cops: [Read all about it!][4]


  • RexMottram08

    Also, this article was better when Malcolm Gladwell wrote it…4 MONTHS AGO

  • River Tam

    > Also, this article was better when Malcolm Gladwell wrote it…4 MONTHS AGO

    In college, Malcolm Gladwell named his plant Buckley, after William F.

  • RexMottram08

    Gladwell does have Buckley’s wide curiosity…but not his wide vocabulary

  • Sara

    Hieronymus, if you’re going to talk about murders in the surrounding city — not just the campus, like the Harvard rash of muggings this weekend — why not mention the 70 murders so far this year in Boston (a number which doesn’t include all the other, dangerous, cities surrounding Cambridge?)

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    Sara: Why do you do this to yourself? If you wouldn’t try and pretend that Cambridge is as gritty, dirty, and dangerous as our fair city, I wouldn’t have to keep posting **facts**, all from our very own YDN.

    Really, I do not like doing this, but **you asked** why I don’t mention murders in **Boston** (an entirely different city from **Cambridge**, separated by distance and mindset–they don’t call it the Ppl’s Republik of Cambridge for nuthin’!). The answer? Because the majority of *Boston*’s murders take place in Mattapan/Dorchester/Roxbury–veritable *worlds* away from The Yard.

    **Yale**’s murders? Not quite so far…I will quote from the YDN:

    At 3:23 a.m. on Oct. 2, police found 27 year old Willie Richardson, shot in the head, on the couch of his mother’s house on Orchard and Elm Streets, **just four blocks West of Pierson College**.

    Five days later, 20 year old Maurice Earls was shot to death in the hallway of a house in the Newhallville neighborhood, **three and a half blocks Northwest of Yale Divinity School**.

    By Christmas, four more men had been murdered. Three were shot to death and a fourth stabbed 11 times inside the popular Crown Street nightclub *Synergy*, **one block from Old Campus.**

    Two more were killed in May *within earshot of police officers* stationed outside **Humphrey’s Bar** near downtown… Not more than 50 feet away, inside a Chevrolet Tahoe, the officers found Edmund Jackson, 25, shot to death through the chest at close range.

    On May 25 Troy Perry, 27, was shot in the leg in the Malcolm Court housing project across from **Union Station**. The bullet hit an artery and Perry bled to death *in a stairwell.*

    Three assailants who displayed what appeared to be a paintball gun r**obbed a graduate student** near **Church Street South** on Saturday, and another victim was robbed in front of **122 Howe St**. by two men brandishing a handgun on Sunday.

    Later that evening, at approximately 7:50 p.m. NHPD officers were sent to 68 Sylvan Ave. on a report of gunshots, Avery added. Upon arriving at the location — **three blocks from Yale-New Haven Hospital.**

    On Sunday, two more shootings. The first, at 60 Kensington St., **four blocks from Pierson College**, happened at 10:45 a.m. when a victim was shot in his left foot, Avery said.

    The fifth shooting of the weekend took place at 39 Henry St., f*four blocks away from the faculty offices on Prospect Street**, Avery said.

    **P.S.** As for

    > “all the other, dangerous, cities
    > surrounding Cambridge,”

    You have GOT to be kidding. You mean like… Somerville? ARLINGTON? Belmont, Brookline, NEWTON??? (The wealthiest, most Lefty paradises in the state of Massachusetts?) Heck, even East Cambridge ain’t what it used to be… SURELY you jest, Sara! Cuz, all kidding aside, you have GOT to be some kinda whacked to cite “all the other, dangerous, cities surrounding Cambridge.” No, really. **REALLY**.

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    Here: I’ll grant you that Harvard’s campuses sure do seem to suffer a lot of theft and vandalism:

    But compare that with the types of crime facing Yale’s campuses:

    One wonders also whether New Haven suppresses or otherwise fails to report the full panoply of crimes, because I rather doubt that New Haven is bereft of theft and vandalism…

    Yikes! A sex-offender comparison is scary as well… Just type in your zip code.

  • River Tam

    > Gladwell does have Buckley’s wide curiosity…but not his wide vocabulary

    Gladwell is an enormously talented writer – I suspect he does not utilize a good chunk of his vocabulary because it would be counterproductive to his goal of reaching a wide audience.

    Buckley was an intellectual’s intellectual. Gladwell is a pop intellectual.

  • pablum

    >Hieronymus, if you’re going to talk about murders in the surrounding city — not just the campus, like the Harvard rash of muggings this weekend — why not mention the 70 murders so far this year in Boston (a number which doesn’t include all the other, dangerous, cities surrounding Cambridge?)

    Boston proper is 6x more populous than all of New Haven. The Boston metro area has 4.5 million people compared to New Haven’s 800,000.

    Shouldn’t a Yale student understand statistics?

    Boston’s murder rate per 100,000: 4.9 (in 2009).

    Cambridge’s murder rate per 100,000: ~2 (in 2008).

    New Haven’s murder rate per 100,000: ~20 so far this year.

    Thus New Haven has 10x the murder rate of Cambridge and 4x the murder rate of Boston.

  • BoolaPigskin

    Screw you. Do you also try to tell our brave men and women in the Armed Forces to quit their posts because serving in the military is a potentially fatal activity?

  • SY10

    BoolaPigskin: While I disagree with the author that the health risks of football are so unacceptable that people shouldn’t play/watch it, your analogy is pretty terrible. Personally, I (and any other sensible person) would tell soldiers to quit their posts if the reason the military fought wars was to provide entertainment to a paying audience. The exceptional risk of death created by serving in the military is only acceptable because the military has functions a good deal more important than selling tickets and providing tv programming.

  • The Anti-Yale

    “60 Minutes” tonight featured a ieice on mark Wahlberg insisting on no stunt man for a movie he stars in (and produces) on the life of a boxer. For “art” (ok, “entertainment”) he allows his brain to be knocked around the inside of his skull.

    He may be sorry 20 years from now.


    PS: This “brain trauma danger game” is a male thing. I don’t know too many women who play it.

  • Sara

    Boston’s murder rate in 2009 was closer to 8 per 100,000, actually, and it is on track to be well over 10 per 100,000 this year.

    According to data at the Harvard School of Public Health’s research site, murder rates for the Boston and New Haven metropolitan areas were 2.4 and 2.7 per 100,000, respectively, both among the lowest in the country. These research sites do not compare cities because it is inaccurate to make comparisons this way, due to the way that city boundaries are defined (for example, New Haven consisting of just a few square miles, whereas cities like Jacksonville consist of nearly 1,000 square miles).

    For comparison, the NY City metro area had a murder rate of 6.4 per 100,000, the San Francisco metro area had a rate of 6.8 per 100,000, the Philadelphia metro area had a rate of 8.7 per 100,000, and the LA metro area had a rate of 10.4 per 100,000.

    Looking at murders per square mile comparing the New Haven and Cambridge areas (which is what the above post referred to, in terms of comparing apples to apples when looking at the Harvard versus Yale campus), New Haven would be far safer, in part because it also has a lower population density.

    Perhaps partly for this reason, the Daily Beast recently ranked Harvard as the 2nd most dangerous campus in the United States, whereas Yale did not make the top 20:

    Online interactive map of Harvard gunpoint and knifepoint muggings:

  • edm2012

    Good job, Sara!

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    “Pants on fire” a-GAIN!

    Here is the data used by the Daily Beast to rank Yale… Ready?

    5, Yale University

    New Haven, Connecticut

    Total enrollment: 11,593

    Criminal Incidents (most recent 3 calendar years):
    **Murders: 0**

    Negligent Homicides: 0
    Forcible Rapes: 33
    Non-forcible Rapes: 0
    Robberies: 47
    Aggravated Assaults: 4
    Burglaries: 261
    Car Thefts: 53
    Arsons: 1

    Anyone see anything….funny here?

    Zero murders? *Really?* ‘Cause I can name at least ONE off’n the top o’ my head… (Although I sure do like that ZERO “non-forcible rape” ranking… take THAT Woe-myn’s Center.)

    As for rankings, here’s another, Let’s see…. Detroit…Flint… Oakland… Compton… Baton Rouge… oh, here it is, just below Buffalo: #18 New Haven, CT

    Oh, Cambridge? #279

    sandwiched between Cedar Rapids IA and Bellingham WA.

    Let us ask the readers: Which is truer to your experience? Which seems more like Compton: New Haven or Cambridge? Hmm?

    This was just a 5 min Google fact-check… What would *more* time uncover, one wonders.

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    Wow. Gunfire erupts near [Church & Crown][1]. Imagine! Luckily, what “police said sounded like shotgun blasts, [left] people ducking for cover.”

    And here’s a reminder of the prior [nightclub shootout][2]. What’s that in the background?

    Could it be… oh, it *IS*… Yale MED!
    ![alt text](×344-550×344.jpg “Shootout”)

    (The yellow markers represent shell casings; [anyone know how far a bullet can travel?][3])

    And here’s a [list of all the crimes that don’t even make it to print…][4]


  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    Addendum–Sara wrote:

    > According to data at the Harvard
    > School of Public Health’s research
    > site, murder rates for the Boston and
    > New Haven metropolitan areas were 2.4
    > and 2.7 per 100,000, respectively,

    Hey Sara, maybe you can help me out. I went to the **[SPH website][1]** but could not find data for New Haven. **Perhaps you could publish the link to your data?** Thanks!

    Also, I note that the “New Haven metropolitan area” is described as “New Haven – Milford.” Really? Yeah, I guess *that* might reduce the murder rate… O’ course, none too many Yalies traipsing off to… Milford.

    (To be fair, I level the same complaint against their Boston data, which lumps Boston-Cambridge-Quincy together. Quincy??? Quincy is an entirely different city separated by time and distance. I can’t decide which is more absurd: equating Cambridge to Boston or to Quincy.)


  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    [Here: I’ll just keep rackin’ ‘em up for Sara to knock down…][1]

    > [A]t 1:41 a.m.
    > Sunday Nov. 28, 19 year-old Javon
    > Hailey suffered a gunshot wound in his
    > leg [outside] Center St.
    > Lounge [site of last week’s shooting
    > and *a short walk from Old Campus*].
    > The other **three** shootings in the past
    > week occurred at a McDonalds in Fair
    > Haven, 320 Edgewood **nine blocks from**
    > **Pierson College** [and, more pertinent,
    > a traditional enclave of off-campus Yalies]
    > and 312 Davenport six
    > blocks from Yale-New Haven Hospital.

    And an [independent observer’s thoughts on New Haven & crime][2]… (Again, perception approaches reality.) The comments should provide some grist for Sara…

    And here is what I mean about perception and safety: You wanna know why more Yalies are not involved in shootings at New Haven nightclubs? Because they dont’ go there. Why? Because they are ***afraid***.


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