Dan Flynn, editor of Breitbart Sports and author of The War on Football, appeared on ESPN’s Outside the Lines this weekend to discuss football safety in the wake of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland retiring after a single NFL season.
“Football is a healthy sport,” Flynn explained on Outside the Lines. “I think if you’re going to have an honest conversation about football the place to start would be to look at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health review of 3,500 NFL players. What they found—with these players between 1959 and 1988 that played five or more years—is that they outlive their peers in society. In other words, the guys watching from the stands had a death rate of 18 percent and the guys playing on the field had a death rate of 10 percent. They had better health outcomes when it came to cancer, respiratory illness, heart disease. Just about every disease category that they looked at the football players did better.”
Steve Almond, author of Against Football countered by calling Borland “an employee in a profoundly dangerous workplace” and the sport he played “too great a risk to take.”
Bob Ley asked the politicization of the debate over football concussions.
“If you think about something like CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy),” Flynn told ESPN host Ley. “Think about the hype surrounding that. There have been four articles on CTE for every documented case in a football player in the New York Times. It’s an incredibly hyped up, politicized disease.”
Almond asked, “Do we really need to consume as a form of entertainment a game that is that profoundly dangerous?”
The author of The War on Football noted that the shift among football critics from highlighting athletes getting killed on the field to athletes getting concussions on the field represents a tacit admission of a safer game on their part. In 1968, 36 players at all levels of competition died as a result of collisions. In the last decade, four players a year—one out of every million tackle football competitors—died from hits. Collision deaths in skiing, bicycling, and skateboarding reach exponentially higher numbers annually.
The full Outside the Lines broadcast airs Sunday at 9 a.m. Eastern on ESPN.