Obama questions whether risks of football worth it for college players
January 27th, 2013
10:30 AM ET
10 years ago

Obama questions whether risks of football worth it for college players

Washington (CNN) – The lifelong neurological maladies that some football players face have led President Barack Obama - a longtime Chicago Bears fan - to question whether the risks are worth it for college players.

In an interview released online Sunday, Obama said if he had a son, he'd "have to think long and hard before I let him play football."

[twitter-follow screen_name='politicalticker']

College players are especially vulnerable, Obama told The New Republic, since they aren't represented by unions or heavily compensated.

"You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on," he said. "That's something that I'd like to see the NCAA think about."

In September, a study published in the journal Neurology suggested professional football players are three times more likely to have neurodegenerative diseases than the general population.

When researchers specifically looked at Alzheimer's disease and ALS - amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease - that risk increased to four times that of the general population.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had been following this group of players since the early '90s, when the NFL asked the institute to evaluate them for their risk of cardiovascular disease.

Other studies have linked repeated concussions in football players to chronic traumatic encephelopathy, a neurodegenerative disease with Alzheimer's-like symptoms. Those symptoms can include depression, memory loss and mood swings. Former Chicago Bears safety David Duerson, who committed suicide, was diagnosed with CTE postmortem. It can be diagnosed only after death.

In February, Obama told Bill Simmons of Grantland.com, a sports and pop culture news website, that he knew Duerson and "used to see him at the gym sometimes."

"Now, the problem is, if you talk to NFL players, they're going to tell you, 'That that's the risk I take; this is the game I play.' And I don't know whether you can make football (be) football if there's not some pretty significant risk factors," Obama said in that February interview.

In Sunday's remarks, Obama's tone seemed to shift. He conceded that "those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence."

- CNN's Nadia Kounang contributed to this report.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (240 Responses)
  1. Evergreen

    The Preident's response to a question posed by the interviewer has at least started a dialogue. Too many former players are suffering more then what they bargained for. The late Jr. Seau comes to mind.

    January 28, 2013 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  2. don in albuquerque

    Can we go back to the gun controll issue now? It's way more fun to read the hillbilly posts.

    January 28, 2013 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  3. Ed

    I'd be concerned with N Korea nuclear program. All sports are dangerous in some way, shape or form. How did this guy get re-elected? Do your job as president moron!

    January 28, 2013 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  4. Jerry e

    Why don't we state of truth. The NRA is one of the most powerful lobbyist groups during our present time. The gun manufactures are behind the NRA selling there products. A lot of money being used the bribe and threaten both sides of the congress and senate aisles. This is right Out of the cigarette lobby play book.
    we have age restriction for minors.. We do it for a driver, tobacco, and liquor. In time, legalized drugs.

    January 28, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  5. Gary, Hunt Valley, Md.

    The president is merely expressing a thought as a parent that millions of parents like me share with him. Nothing more, nothing less. Anyone reading political slants into it is choosing to be idiotic.

    January 28, 2013 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  6. Mr.HowdyDoody

    Just get it over with. Declare yourself king and put us all in rubber padded rooms so we can eat our soylent green in peace.
    So what Obama is really saying is, he'd rather have the atheletes, mostly minorities getting free or reduced college educations to play for the team, to not get an education and to turn to crime?
    Why is it we've played football for 100 years, and just now we are worried about the effects? Because we have a nation of sissy men now. Certain activties have certain risks. People do understand the risks before they play a game or do an activity. If they don't understand that they will hurt their head playing football, then there was nothing there to hurt in the 1st place.

    January 28, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  7. Larry L


    Oh Dear Obama Osama – Protect Us From Ourselves! No wonder the education level in this country is at an all time low. The government – and it's not just confined to the current administration – is continually trying to legislate what is good for us and what is not. Come On You Morons – Think For Yourselves.
    ===================================================================================================== You quite clearly didn't even read the article before starting your typical right-wing rant. Nothing in the article said anything about legislation. Turn off Fox News and "think for yourself!"

    Still, ever wonder why the Affordable Healthcare Law requires people to have health insurance and allows coverage children up to age 26. "Free spirits" are never so free when they run up a million dollar bill for a traumatic brain injury to a child and a requirement for full-time care forever.

    January 28, 2013 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  8. Larry L


    I am so sick of these discussions, the President has been succesful in his attempt to deflect attention from the disaster that has been his tenure. I attended a professionsl hockey game last Saturday and witnessed far greater collisions on a more consistant basis than what I witness as a high school football coach in Texas. That said the helmets worn in hockey are far less substantial than that we equip our kids in. Meanwhile, MMA is one of the fastest growing sports in North America, and they like boxing celebrate violent blows to the head. The Winter X Games showed repeatedly a snow mobile land on a man's head.

    All of these and many others are examples of dangerous activities that do not draw the ire of the President and countless media outlets. There is plenty to be done in Washington right now, get to work Obama and quit pondering about hypothetical scenarios. You have daughters, decide if you will let them risk head injuries in gymnastics and tackle the balooning debt.
    -------------------------------------------------- The President gave a few common sense answers to questions. His concern is based on actual medical data – not anecdotal stories from a "Coach" who attended a hockey game. Read the article and you'll see your rant is wasted.

    This President is working much harder towards our financial problems than the Republican Tea Baggers in the House and Senate who openly obstruct all progress.

    January 28, 2013 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  9. yasmine

    eat crow haters...you all try sooooooooooooo hard with your talking points...but t it just makes the President come out on top everytime!

    January 28, 2013 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  10. Bob Campbell

    Obama you stick your nose in anything and everything but your work. You haven't had a budget in four years. Try doing your job and not campaigning your term away.

    January 28, 2013 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  11. Rickk37

    Dear Obama,

    Can you please create an agency for me that would chew my food for me? Thank you very much!


    January 28, 2013 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  12. Touching Everything

    Why is the president and his administration touching everything traditionally American?
    Labor relations
    and now football


    Does the interest of football fall within the scope of duty for an American president?

    January 28, 2013 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  13. Strategic Bob


    If you need help figuring out when to p00p and how to wipe yourself, I am sure that some kind of help can be found. Just don't ask anyone at Faux News and don't ask Rush Limpbaugh or Ann Coulter. None of them know either.

    As for me, I know how to do both of those acts and I also know that I will never let my son play football. I have spent too many years on crutches due to football injuries to wish it on anyone else, or to allow anyone I love and over whom I have some degree of control to be exposed to the risk inherent in football.

    January 28, 2013 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  14. Guest

    Who cares what he thinks.

    January 28, 2013 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  15. Bllie Holdridge

    I thought this was to be a discussion about the dangers of football and other sports, instead, some of you idiots have turned it into HATE speeches., But we have poor losers and bigots everywhere. My sympathy to those that can't face facts.

    January 29, 2013 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10