Why do we pretend to care about player safety?

The NFL season will come to an end with this year’s Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is the most watched event in the United States, and the pinnacle of American pop culture.

An estimated 111 million people will watch the Super Bowl from Minneapolis according to Newsweek. Celebrities, cooperate big wigs, former players, and every news outlet imaginable will descend on Minneapolis.

With all the commotion, it is almost like we forgot all about the issue that has plagued the NFL throughout its history: player safety.

An NFL report released late last month shows that concussions are up 13.5 percent to 281 concussions in the 2017 season. This is despite rule changes in football that are meant to help protect the ball carrier from defenseless hits.

A film director named Josh Begley recently released a short film titled, “Concussion Protocol.” The short film shows concussions in reverse slow motion and truly showcases the brutality of the injuries.

A concussion protocol was established in recent years that was meant to help diagnose concussions for players during games.

The protocol has often left us questioning if it is at all effective in diagnosis. Earlier this year, quarterback Cam Newton passed the protocol and returned to the game after stumbling off the field after a big hit.

Injuries have often overshadowed what has been a very competitive football season even when a concussion isn’t involved. The Carson Wentz’s ACL tear late in the Philadelphia Eagles’ impressive win over the Rams. Or rookie standout Deshauan Watson’s ACL tear that reportedly happened during practice.

Ryan Shazier’s spinal injury in early December that still has him hospitalized, fighting for recovery. All of these injuries, were not one’s that can be avoided by rule changes because they are part of the game. And football, as much as we don’t want it to be, is a violent sport.

In recent years, we are beginning understand what is happening to these players bodies. We have a much clearer picture of the physical toll that is being taken. We see the early deaths of former players and all the complication around their lives. It is hard to watch football and ignore what is happening to the men playing the actual game.

Yet, 111 million people, including myself, will watch this year’s rendering of the big game. And if at any point a player goes down injured: we will pretend to care, then keep on watching.

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