American Football and Risk

There are so many angles to investigate when it comes to risk and American Football, that I could probably write a whole book. I will never forget when a professor one asked me to analyze the sport in terms of the industrial revolution (repeatable programs with failure analysis, along the lines of the Shewart Cycle).

Anyway, I have found interesting the discussion related to head-injuries and the percentage of retired players suffering from serious forms of dementia.

NFL and union officials say the correlation between NFL players and Alzheimer’s is anecdotal rather than scientific, and experts in the field agree.

But the heightened interest in the subject follows the death of Andre Waters, who committed suicide last November at 44. Reports concluded he had brain damage that resulted from multiple concussions during 12 years as an NFL safety. In addition, The Boston Globe and The New York Times reported in February that 34-year-old Ted Johnson, who spent 10 years as a linebacker with the New England Patriots, shows early signs of Alzheimer’s.


Those involved with the program say they can’t demonstrate clearly that dementia among football players correlates with football.

“I’ll leave it for the doctors to decide that,” Upshaw says. “A lot of the guys we’re talking about are pretty much up in age, so it’s hard to know why they have the problem.”

Barkan agrees but notes: “Just from what doctors tell us, there is a strong correlation from multiple concussions and the onset of problems.”

Correlation does not imply causation. But I think it odd to say there is no mutual relation between playing football and dementia. Seriously, if someone is subjected to a high risk of head injuries then what amount of evidence is required to convince the “experts in the field” that helmets should be worn while playing, and that the helmets must provide a measurable level of protection?

One thought on “American Football and Risk”

  1. snowboarders who ride pipe also get concussions and they get dementia too

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