Football remains America’s favorite professional sport, even though a majority of fans admit they’re concerned about brain injuries to players, according to a new survey.
Among 1,000 Americans questioned, 77 percent of those who follow pro football believe head injuries for players pose a major problem for the sport. Fifteen percent said it is a minor problem, while 6 percent don’t consider it a problem.
In addition, the University of Massachusetts Lowell-Washington Post poll revealed that more than 80 percent believe there is either certainly or probably settled science that playing football causes brain injuries. Only one in 10 said that is either probably false or certainly false.
Long-term damage caused by repeated blows to the head has garnered much attention in recent years. A study published in July in the Journal of the American Medical Association said chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) — a condition that can mimic Alzheimer’s disease — was found in 99 percent of brains donated by 111 former NFL players.
“There is a growing ambivalence among pro football fans that puts their love of the game in conflict with their views on concussions and head injuries,” said Joshua Dyck, co-director of UMass Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion.
“The survey indicates that football fans are very concerned about the problems related to concussions, and half think the league has not done enough to address the issue. However, there is no evidence in this survey that NFL fans have started voting with their feet and remote controls by turning away and tuning out,” Dyck said in a university news release.
Despite their safety concerns, 60 percent of respondents said they are fans of professional football, and 31 percent said they are “big fans.”
Yet, the poll found that 52 percent of respondents believe CTE is a serious public health issue. And another 28 percent said it likely is.
Other serious concerns that a majority of respondents expressed about football include domestic violence, and violence in general, committed by players.
After football, the second and third most popular professional sports are Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association, the poll found.
The Concussion Legacy Foundation has more on CTE.