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The pros and cons of playing football

Football is a dangerous sport. And though there are risks involved, men still love the game. Michael Behr, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Piedmont, gives us the rundown on the pros and cons of playing football.

The pros of playing football

Football requires conditioning and strength training, which are excellent forms of exercise and good for cardiovascular health. 

“You do a lot of different types of training when you participate in football from sprints to distance to interval training and weight lifting,” says Dr. Behr.  “So it’s really a good overall health benefit to someone in any age group.”

Playing football is also a great way to improve concentration.

“It forces you to focus on what you’re doing,” explains Dr. Behr. “Otherwise you can be a casualty. So you can’t afford to let down your guard.”

And perhaps most importantly, football teaches the value of teamwork, leadership and having a good work ethic.

“You learn time management, you learn discipline,” says Dr. Behr. “You learn how to deal with loses and disappointments. And those types of things are all really critical to youngsters as they get older and have to apply that to real-life situations.”

The cons of playing football

But playing football isn’t without its risks.

According to the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, more than 500,000 high school football injuries occurred between the 2014 and 2015 school year.

And this April, thousands of pro-football players agreed to a settlement with the National Football League over serious health conditions associated with concussions.

“Regardless of how safe we make it, it’s still a dangerous sport,” explains Dr. Behr. “One of the hardest things for a team is to get through the season without people getting injured.”

Common injuries include: ankle sprains, hamstring injuries, meniscus tears, and concussions. And while these injuries can range from mild to severe, they can sometimes be fatal.

“We’ve had a number of deaths around the country of kids who have had head injuries from a tackle that have led to death,” says Dr. Behr. “And of course that’s the worst thing that anyone could ever imagine. There are also the unknown cause of deaths where kids play and die from congenital problems that they weren’t aware of.  The most common being an enlarged heart. But some conditions are difficult to pick up on a routine preseason physical.”

Playing football safely

There is an ongoing effort in the arena of sports medicine and through football leagues to try to reduce the risk of injuries.

“At the high school level, we now have physicians that are on the sidelines,” says Dr. Behr. “Schools that don’t usually have a trainer, and they can evaluate players immediately.”

And the NFL passed several new safety rules this year, including allowing an injury spotter to stop the game if a player appears to have suffered from a brain injury.

“There are risks involved with playing football,” says Dr. Behr. “But I think that’s part of the attraction. I think if you got rid of all the risks, you would in fact take away a lot of the reason it’s attractive to so many people. 

To learn more about Piedmont’s orthopedic services, click here


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