It goes without saying that real football (so not “futbol”) is an inherently dangerous sport.
Incredibly large human beings are moving at incredible speeds to physically dominate the opposition, and those humans are only getting bigger and faster.
Given that, football fans have grown somewhat accustomed to some genuinely gruesome injuries — you know, mangled fingers, broken arms and legs bending 90 degrees in the wrong direction.
But while the horrors of those aforementioned injuries are rather evident, a new type of less obvious injury is starting to become the primary concern of many football fans and prognosticators.
And those would be injuries to the noggin.
A relatively recent surge in studies into the effects of multiple, cumulative concussions on the human brain has found that there could very well be long-standing neurological damage — often labeled as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
CTE is a degenerative brain disease that is attributed to frequent head trauma and is often linked to suicides, particularly among football players.
It’s all very scary stuff that people are only just beginning to learn about — but enough light has been shed to completely change the way people consume the NFL.
Remember: At one point in time, the NFL actively promoted a segment on pre-game shows called “Jacked Up!”, and it focused on brutal hits — usually to the head — before the segment was quietly sunset following the 2006 NFL season.
It was a beloved segment at the time because it perfectly captured the inherent violence of football that no other sport, perhaps sans hockey, can replicate.
Well, Thursday’s tilt between the visiting New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns produced the sort of hit that actually wouldn’t have made the “Jacked Up!” segments of yore, but the end result was shockingly similar to something you would’ve seen on an NFL pre-game show pre-2006.
The Browns won the game 37-20 (the game wasn’t even as close as the final score would suggest as Cleveland punched a rare ticket to the playoffs with it) but suffered a scary moment right before halftime when receiver Elijah Moore was taken down with a rather routine tackle — until his head bounced off turf like it was a basketball.
Really scary moment for Elijah Moore, who looks like he started seizing after the hit. Hope he is okay. pic.twitter.com/IOZ6apzwil
— TCB (@TenCentBeers) December 29, 2023
Moore, after getting dragged down and having his head bounce off the field, began to exhibit what many interpreted as involuntary movements, a classic sign of head trauma.
One popular sports doctor on X took to the social media platform to confirm many fans’ worst fears.
“Unfortunately those are involuntary movements from a Brain Injury for Elijah Moore,” Dr. Even Jeffries posted on X.
According to ESPN, Moore has been released from the hospital and is now in the NFL’s concussion protocol (meaning he cannot play another snap until he passes a battery of league-sanctioned tests).
“He’s doing better,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said. “Those are always scary.”
Look, the NFL is the living definition of “too big to fail” (remember everyone saying the NFL was finished after the national anthem protest debacles sparked by former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick?) and continues to utterly dominate North American sports in terms of ratings and mind share.
Heck, fantasy football alone (extra emphasis on the “fantasy”) has become a billion-dollar industry, and that’s not even real football.
So no, this is not to prematurely sound the death knell on the NFL.
But it is to somewhat sound the alarm on the identity crisis that lays before the league.
On the one path, the league can continue to give credence to CTE studies and cite it as a genuine concern. There’s plenty of genuine concern to be had about the long-term effects of frequent head trauma.
Pessimists would dread that path inevitably leading to flag football as the league tries to legislate violence out of something that’s inherently violent.
The other path is the far less likely one, but it would have the league embrace the violence again.
At its core, football is a game about taking territory (you have four downs to accumulate a certain amount of yardage) from your opponent. That is literally the basis for nearly every war ever fought, and violence is naturally just part and parcel of war.
Small picture: Thankfully, Moore is okay after suffering that stomach-churning reaction to landing on his head on Thursday.
Big picture: As injuries like Moore’s only become more commonplace as human beings get bigger and faster than they ever were, the NFL could be on the verge of a massive identity crisis.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.