The Risks of Playing Football

The good, bad and untold risks of playing tackle football.


media by Danny Curran

A graphic depicts some of the health risks associated with playing football.

by Kishan Vahalia, Reporter

Backstory of Hamlin’s Injury:

On Jan. 2, during the Buffalo Bills vs. Cincinnati Bengals game, Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field, suffering from a cardiac arrest. After he tackled Bengals’ wide receiver Tee Higgins, Hamlin got up, and three seconds later, he collapsed. His heartbeat was restored on the field by Bills’ medical personnel. He stayed at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, and the Buffalo General Medical Center for a total of nine days. On Jan. 31, Hamlin was declared able to breathe, walk, and communicate on his own, according to Los Angeles Times.

On March 31, Hamlin was asked by President Joe Biden if he planned to continue playing football. He responded, “I think so. . . . God willing(according to NBC Sports).

As this injury was witnessed or heard by many players and fans, what are their reactions and thoughts on playing football now?

Football Injury Statistics:

  • Researchers from sports analyst companies (ESPN) estimate that more than 450,000 high school football injuries occur each year (2019).
  • The Concussion Legacy Foundation says kids should not play tackle football until age 14. 
  • Over 90% of former NFL players showed signs of brain diseases like CTE
  • In the 2015 preseason and regular season, including practices, the league formally recorded 275 concussions, which can be challenging to diagnose. In 2021, that number declined to 187.
  • According to the Sports and Fitness Industry, the gap between flag football and tackle football exceeded 1.6 million as of 2021.
  • The 2021 NFL season saw 71 A.C.L. tears, part of a troubling trend in a league that has seen the number of regular-season A.C.L. tears more than double since 2017.

Sources: NYTimes, Injury Claim Coach, Concussion Legacy Foundation,,, SFIA


I’ve never truly felt safe playing football, and even after seeing Hamlin’s injury, I’ve learned to accept that injuries come with playing football.

— Avin Modalavalasa '25

Player Perspectives:

Former Football Tackle Barrett Watkins ’24:

“Even before Hamlin’s injury, I’ve felt that football was unsafe and that players are aware of the risks that come with the sport,” Watkins said. “I think the NFL should make the decision of resuming play based on Hamlin’s condition, as it is insensitive and selfish not to put the players first.”

Wide Receiver Kaden Walsh ’25:

“I still feel safe playing football, because serious injuries like these don’t happen often,” Walsh said. “I don’t think any games should be postponed, but they [teams] should show respect for him [Damar Hamlin] in some way.” 

Defensive End Avin Modalavalasa ’25:

“I’ve never truly felt safe playing football, and even after seeing Hamlin’s injury, I’ve learned to accept that injuries come with playing football,” Modalavalasa said. “If something like this does happen again, they [NFL] should suspend games because the players’ safety and mental health comes before the game.”

Spencer Rathbun ’24:

“Specifically, the Damar Hamlin injury has such a rare chance of actually happening in football,” Rathbun said. “I feel safe, but there are definitely risks that come with playing, as I’ve had concussions in the past.”


Athletic Director Thomas Brieske gave his viewpoint on Hamlin’s injury. Here’s what he had to say: 

Q: How has Hamlin’s injury affected your opinion towards the safety of football?

A: Damar Hamlin’s injury was definitely scary and I am so thankful that he is on the mend.  We still have no confirmation on what caused his cardiac arrest whether it was from the hit or if he possibly has a pre-existing condition.  Which is often the case in these situations.

Q: Do you think the NFL should halt any more games this season?

A: I do not believe the NFL should halt any more games and I am sure they have experts monitoring the situation on a daily basis.
Q: What did you feel when you heard the news?

A: I was actually tuned in to the game and it was a very scary situation.  I was glad to see they made the right call in canceling the game.

Q: Have any parents of players reached out to you with concerns?

A: No parents have reached out to me but I have had friends reach out to me to ask about our protocols.  We are fortunate to have AEDs on-site at our events and we have several in the school.  We are also lucky to have highly trained Athletic Trainers at almost all of our events.

What are your thoughts on Damar Hamlin’s injury, and how does it impact your view on football? Let us know in the comments below.