Most Football Concussions Don’t Happen in the NFL

Derek Muller thinks that one reason the concussion lawsuits against the NFL will be settled soon is that the league has an interest in curtailing the bad publicity. But why single out the NFL when by far most football is played elsewhere, in high schools and colleges?

Statistics on the frequency of concussions vary widely and are irritatingly difficult to interpret, at least in the vague and ambivalent terms in which they’re often reported. Even so, you can still conclude from them that, if you’ve played high-school football for four years, there’s about a 50 percent chance you’ve had at least one concussion.

Back in January, Jonah Lehrer wrote at some length on the concussion problem in high-school football, depicting it as an issue simmering for decades just below the surface of media attention and now threatening to kill the entire sport by shutting it down at the source that feeds talent into college football and the NFL. Lehrer gets animated when writing about football’s possible demise, and it’s hard to escape the impression that it’s not a sport he likes, but his article is informative. His paragraph on the physics of helmets and concussions is particularly good.

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