Game Theory

Is Football the New Dog Fighting?

Multimillion dollar contracts and eager groupies aside, are football players treated just as badly as dogs that are used for fights? And if so, where does that leave Michael Vick? In Malcom Gladwell’s latest New Yorker piece on unexpected connections, the Outliers author compares the damage inflicted on some athletes—namely football players and boxers—to the injuries suffered by fighting dogs, and the irresponsibility of managers handling both the animals and the athletes. The classic national pastime has been historically violent and “gladiatorial,” and Gladwell argues that it comes from a desire to please coaches and owners parallel to the way dogs fight for their owners. New findings show that the constant head trauma and lack of recovery time in football leads former players stunningly high rates of brain damage and symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s. All that tackling leaves visible marks on the brain, described by one researcher as “the kind of scar[s] you’d get only if you used your head as a battering ram.”