Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Poll: The One Thing All Americans Can Agree On Is That Football Causes Brain Damage

Photo via Ann Heisenfelt/AP
Photo via Ann Heisenfelt/AP

Eighty-one percent of American adults believe that it is either certainly or probably true that “there is a settled science that playing football causes brain injuries,” according to a new poll on perceptions of sports and concussions from the Center for Public Opinion. A slim simple majority of American adults, 44 percent to 43 percent, disapprove of their own child playing tackle football, though only 33 percent disapprove of children playing tackle football more generally.


While the highlights of the poll basically confirm that the liberal media’s anti-football agenda is working—respondents were more likely to see tackle football as dangerous if they were older, more educated, or richer, so basically if they were more likely to be New York Times readers—there are a number of interesting and somewhat counterintuitive findings if you drill down into the cross-tabs a bit.

A somewhat common prognostication, for instance, is that in 20 or 30 or 50 years, the population of children who play football will be much less white and poorer than the population at large, as is the case with boxing. While youth football participation is indeed plummeting, though, the CPOR survey found that black respondents thought tackle football was more dangerous and were less likely to let their children play than adults of other races, and in many instances those making less than $30,000 believed the sport more dangerous than those making $30,000 to $100,000. It seems the white, middle-income parent with some college education is the most likely to let their child play tackle football.

The poll found, obviously, that football is the sport American adults say they watch most frequently. But it also found that a sizable majority—across basically all demographics—don’t believe the NFL, NCAA, or any other organization is doing enough in response to evidence of brain injuries, and, interestingly, that there isn’t really a difference in responses between those who watch football frequently and those who do not. Football fans don’t rabidly oppose efforts to reduce brain injuries; in fact, football’s biggest fans agree that the NFL and NCAA haven’t gone far enough.

American adults also believe more in soccer’s safety than they probably should. Though only 40 percent thought it was probably true or certainly true that “heading the ball in soccer is safe for children before they reach high school,” 83 percent of respondents approved of their own children playing soccer, which is only slightly less than the percentage who approved of their children playing basketball or baseball. In November, U.S. Soccer banned players under 11 from heading the ball, in response to a class action lawsuit over concussions.

Are there other interesting findings in the survey? Check it out and let us know in the comments.


Reporter at the New York Times