Once children worked. In factories. They worked long hours without enough rest or proper nutrition. They worked with enormous machines without any real safety precautions. Accidents were common. Children died, or were maimed. It was just the way things were.
Can you think of other work place tragedies in our history? Black lung disease among miners, cases of "the bends" in workers building the Brooklyn Bridge, disease from asbestos, the Triangle Shirtwaist fire...We have laws in place now to protect workers, and we have OSHA. It's still not a perfect world. Black lung disease, once almost completely eradicated, is staging a comeback. But I think that most of us believe that the United States has a good grip on protecting workers from from workplace hazards. We have laws, don't we?
We have a serious blind spot: football. Considered to be an all-American sport both to play and to watch, it nonetheless contributes injuries to players year in and year out, some of them permanent. We are only now starting to challenge expectations for youth players in an attempt to reduce concussions. Professional football players are subjected to traumatic brain injury, permanent damage to joints, permanent damage due to over-medicating due to injury, and much more.
But we don't want to deal with it, and we don't want to talk about it. This drives me crazy. The kind of lasting injuries that these workers are subjected to ought to cause outrage and public outcry. These are human beings who deserve better. I firmly believe that someday in the future people will look back at the practice of football and shudder, the way that we do when we think of little children losing an arm in a textile mill. It's barbaric.
Does American love football enought to care about its players? I hope so. Oh, and: go, Ravens!
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