Student-athlete safety should be priority despite profit, popularity

Last week’s hospitalization of three University of Oregon football players following strength and conditioning workouts is raising questions about how hard players are being pushed in the name of the game. The NCAA is primarily responsible for regulating these workouts. This raises the question: shouldn’t the individual schools be more concerned with their athletes’ well-being and not force the issue on to the NCAA?

Stories of this nature are becoming increasingly prevalent. Last week, an offensive lineman at Northern Michigan was found dead in his dorm room following a workout. In 2014, a University of Miami offensive lineman participated in workouts despite having the flu, ultimately causing him to suffer a heat stroke and spend 12 days in a coma. In 2011, 13 University of Iowa players were hospitalized with a muscle disorder following grueling workouts.

While football is certainly a sport of endurance in which the best-conditioned team succeeds, it is not necessarily worth leaving its participants with severe health complications; a whole set of complications separate from the documented neurological effects of playing football long-term.

The ever-rising popularity of college football has signaled an increase in its ability to generate revenue, both for the individual schools, the conferences, and the umbrella organization that governs it, the NCAA. This potential to cash in on college football has greatly contributed to the rising level of competition within the sport. To compete at a high level, coaches are under pressure to ensure their players are properly conditioned and capable of playing a full 60 minutes of football. This pressure seems to have translated to more and more strenuous workouts and practices.

Though the NCAA attempts to regulate the amount and frequency of workouts and practices, these recommendations are not always followed. The question can also be raised: is it the NCAA’s job to regulate how much and how often players should work out? Or should the individual institutions place enough value on their players and not push them to the brink of serious health issues? Schools with prominent college football programs seem to have adopted this so-called “play until you puke” mentality in which they push their players to – and in some cases beyond – what they’re physically capable of. I understand that sports are all about endurance and the building of strength, but shouldn’t the schools take more initiative to protect their valued athletes?

Dana McGeehan is a junior majoring in history and media management.


Featured image courtesy Flickr user Tom Woodward