In an interview, published by the New Yorker on Sunday, journalist David Remnick asked President Obama whether he has mixed feelings about watching the National Football League games in light of reports about former players experiencing early onset dementia and other severe consequences that followed their career.
“I would not let my son play pro football,” Obama replied. “But, I mean, you wrote a lot about boxing, right? We’re sort of in the same realm.”
He went on, adding: “At this point, there’s a little bit of caveat emptor.. These guys, they know what they’re doing. They know what they’re buying into. It is no longer a secret. It’s sort of the feeling I have about smokers, you know?”
The U.S. president expressed similar sentiment a year ago when he was interviewed by the New Republic.
“I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football,” Obama said at the time.
“And I think 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. In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much.”
He went on, adding: “I tend to be more worried about college players than NFL players in the sense that the NFL players have a union, they’re grown men, they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies.’
“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. That’s something that I’d like to see the NCAA think about,” the president concluded.
A recent research showed that concussions experienced by football players may lead to such diseases as memory loss. Concussions were also linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE, a degenerative disease found in athletes who have repeatedly experienced brain trauma.
“This is a public health problem,” admitted Walter Koroshetz, deputy director of the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
“We don’t know the mechanics of the head injuries that lead to this, the number and severity that is required to get this. We don’t know whether certain people based on their genes are more susceptible or not. There are a lot of questions to be answered.”
Last summer National Football League agreed to pay up to $765 million to settle down a lawsuit brought by thousands of former players, who got serious traumas when playing for NFL.