Chicago Tribune, Harvard and Yale Should Stop Playing Football:
Harvard and Yale are among the premier educational institutions in the world. They have spent centuries at the task of strengthening and elevating young minds. But on Saturday, Nov. 18, they ... [joined] together in a ritual guaranteed to damage young brains: the Harvard-Yale football game.
The two universities have been meeting on the gridiron since 1875, in one of the oldest rivalries in college sports. The tradition even inspired an acclaimed documentary film about the 1968 game, Harvard Beats Yale 29-29.
Ivy League football is no longer a big deal on the intercollegiate sports scene, which is dominated by large public universities such as Ohio State and Alabama. But Harvard (my alma mater) and Yale continue to send out undergraduate students to represent them in varsity football, oblivious to growing evidence that it does grave and irreversible harm to mental functioning.
At this point, a heavy burden of proof lies on those defending the game. A study of the brains of 202 deceased football players by neurologists at Boston University found markers of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in 99 percent of NFL veterans and 91 percent of those who played only through college. CTE is an incurable terminal disease that, according to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, causes “memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, and eventually progressive dementia.” ...
How can these two institutions rationalize a pastime so antithetical to the well-being of undergraduates and their own educational missions? It’s the equivalent of the Mayo Clinic operating a tobacco shop on-site. While athletics may be a worthwhile part of a well-rounded life, any sport practically designed to impair mental functioning can’t be justified as a university endeavor. ...
Harvard and Yale, of course, are just two of the hundreds of colleges that have varsity football teams. Why should they be singled out for doing what so many are doing?
One reason is that elite educational institutions have large responsibilities. Universities that are academic leaders have no business pretending there is no problem or waiting for others to act.
Their stature also gives them outsize influence. If Yale’s Peter Salovey and Harvard’s Drew Gilpin Faust were to move to abandon the sport for reasons of health and safety, administrators at other colleges would be confronted with the question in a way they could not avoid.
With every game, Yale and Harvard are knowingly exposing their young charges to the serious risk of permanent incapacitating neurological injuries. How many students’ brains have to be wrecked before they decide to stop?