George Will: Dangers of Football Can't Be Fixed


As millions watch and celebrate the success of America's athletes in the Olympic Games in London, ABC News' George Will turned his attention to the beginning of the NFL season and the ongoing debate over traumatic brain injuries suffered on the football field.

In his Washington Post column this morning, George Will writes powerfully about the long-term problems facing the sport, saying, "Football is entertainment in which the audience is expected to delight in gladiatorial action that a growing portion of the audience knows may cause the players degenerative brain disease."

He spoke about the issue this morning on the "This Week" roundtable:

STEPHANOPOULOS: George, I know it's hard for you to watch Olympics during baseball season, but I think all of us were actually struck by what you wrote this week about so far - your column this morning, pretty simple but staggering conclusion. You write that football just can't be fixed.

WILL: The human body is no longer built for the kinetic energy of the National Football League and even further down to high school. In 1980, George, there were three NFL players over 300 pounds. Today there are three over 350 pounds, and 352 people on the 2011 rosters weighed more than 300 pounds.

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WILL: Over 20 yards, which is where a lot of football is played, these guys are as fast as cats, fast as running backs, and the kinetic energy is producing what is called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE, get used to that, because it's going to be the subject of lawsuits and other things. The crucial word is chronic. Repeated, small but repeated blows to the head, the brain floating in the pan in the skull, now we know causes early dementia and other problems.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So what's to be done about it? Because right now, there's no evidence that the American public is ready to turn away.

WILL: It will start down below. It will start at the small level of kids playing football in grade school and then in high school. We now in our hyper-cautious parenting put crash helmets on children riding tricycles. How many of these parents are going to let their children go out and play football once they learn, again the chronic, the cumulative effect of small brain trauma?

Watch our discussion here:

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