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UNC Football Coach: If We Lose Football, We Lose Our Country

The head football coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Larry Fedora, stirred up controversy during the ACC kickoff last week when he said data is mixed about whether the game of football causes long-term brain injury. The media pounced, but in the midst of the feeding frenzy, Fedora’s insightful comments about football’s positive impact on the country have been lost.

After Fedora told reporters he didn’t think football causes CTE, he was compelled to clarify his comment: While concussions can cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), he said, the game of football itself isn’t the cause.

Fedora is splitting hairs. It’s true that as long as there aren’t any head injuries in a game, players aren’t going to suffer from CTE. However, because of the nature of the high-contact sport, many players get concussions and are therefore at risk of CTE. This risk can be minimized, though never removed entirely.

Fedora went on to say that football is safer than it ever has been, and colleges work hard to tweak the game every year to improve player safety. He advocates flag football for young children, while introducing them later to the game of tackle. But, he added, we can’t ignore the fact that football is a dangerous game. As long as there’s contact, people are going to get hurt. Players at the college level and above know what they’re getting into, Fedora explained. They know the risks, and it’s up to the individuals to decide if the benefits of playing the game outweigh the risks.

These risks, however, have turned many people off to football. They either want to get rid of it altogether or they want to turn it into something it’s not. The game will be lost, and Fedora said that there’s no doubt in his mind “that the loss of football would be the decline of our country”:

If we go to touch football, the game's definitely changed. The game will not be as physical. The game will not be as tough as it is. A few years back, I had an opportunity to ask a three-star general, I had a question for him. I said, "What is it that makes our country, our military, superior to every other military in the world?" He was like, "That's easy. We're the only football-playing nation in the world." He said, "Most of all of our troops have grown up and played the game at some point in their life at some level, and the lessons that they learned from that game is what makes this great."

...

I do believe we're involved in the greatest game there is on earth, I really do. And I do believe it's what makes our country so great. I'm passionate about that. And I believe the game is under attack right now. And if we're not careful, we're going to lose what the game is all about.