By Dan Bernstein —
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(670 The Score) Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier lies in a hospital room, lucky to have suffered only a spinal contusion, according to reports, after his head-down tackle of Bengals receiver Josh Malone on Monday left him lying helpless on the turf.
The solemn and familiar ritual commenced thereafter, with the backboard out and the cart trundling off, players watching grimly on both sidelines and offering pats of support, while the more modern addition of social media prayers began to bloom across the Twitterverse, with keypads beseeching some higher power via hashtags.
Then the perfunctory mention of perspective, again, as if this is all somehow new to the experience.
This is football. This has been football. If you need another nationally televised neurotrauma to understand or at least re-know such a thing, it’s only because of active and willful efforts at compartmentalization so you can fool yourself into thinking this isn’t a fundamentally inhumane spectacle. Some of us are better at it than others.
Kids at the youth and high school level are suffering such injuries across the country every year. The same goes for college players.
According to a study published by the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last January, a total of 28 deaths occurred due to spinal and brain injuries from 2005 to 2014 at those levels of amateur football — 24 in high school and four in college, an average of 2.8 per year. Linebacker and running back were the two most affected positions, and head-first/head-down contact was identified as the single most common characteristic of the collisions that proved fatal.
And this is only the deaths, mind you, not the number of paralyses and other life-changing injuries suffered, and it doesn’t account for youth leagues and other club levels.
Often satire tells the truth most starkly and cruelly, as it did Monday morning. Onion Sports Network posted a story around 10:30 a.m. entitled “‘Football Saved My Life,’ Says Man Who Will Be Left Paralyzed By Sport.”