Obama On Football Head Injuries: The Sport 'Will Probably Change'

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Getty File
Getty File

Count President Barack Obama among the football fans who believe the game may have to tone it down a notch.

In an interview with The New Republic, Obama opened up about the sport's dangers, suggesting that less action could mean more for both players and fans.

"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," he said. "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."

The president's comments come on the heels of a January lawsuit by former NFL player Junior Seau's family, charging that the violent contact he endured led to his brain disease. Seau, who died in May at age 43 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, was later diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Obama also told The New Republic that his concerns are stronger for the NCAA than the NFL, as players lack a union or salary to protect against damage suffered in games.

"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," Obama said. "That’s something that I’d like to see the NCAA think about."

Among the more frightening college football incidents in recent memory was the Oct. 2010 game involving Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand. The defensive tackle fractured his C3/C4 vertebrae and damanged his spinal cord while attempting to make a head-first tackle against Army, resulting in paralysis below the shoulders.

LeGrand's college coach and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano delivered a symbolic 2012 NFL Draft gesture, signing his former player to a contract -- complete with a jersey and helmet.

"My goal is to walk. ... I don't know when it's going to happen, but I know down the road it is going to happen," LeGrand said last May.

For the full interview with Obama, head over to The New Republic.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Seau died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. We regret the error.

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