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A Super Bowl review: It’s time for colleges to step in and change the game

<p>NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announces the first-round picks at each NFL draft.</p>

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announces the first-round picks at each NFL draft.

The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

Sunday night, over 111.9 million viewers tuned in to watch Superbowl 50.

Over 111.9 million viewers tuned in to watch the Broncos and the Panthers battle it out, each team trying to advance the ball down the field while the other does whatever it takes to stop them.

Over 111.9 million people contributed to a culture in which we wait for the crash of one body against another, we anticipate the sound of helmets colliding and we cheer with excitement when someone is knocked to the ground.

The safety of football has been under scrutiny in recent years, and on Feb. 3, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked about the risks at a pre-Superbowl press conference.

"There's risks in life," Goodell stated. "There's risks to sitting on a couch." He upheld that while there are high rates of brain injury among football players, there is no reason to believe playing football is to blame.

However, the facts are that NFL players "sustained 271 concussions in practices, preseason and regular season games in 2015," according to a Feb. 1 Frontline report. This shows a 31.6 percent increase in concussions in the league from the previous year, despite the NFL's claims that it is trying to reduce the risk of injuries.

League officials claim that the spike in concussion data is due to increased awareness and an improved screening process.

Last September, Frontline released results of an investigation done by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University, which autopsied the brains of 91 deceased former NFL players. Eighty-seven were identified as having chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition believed to be caused by "repetitive trauma to the head."

This trauma doesn't refer solely to concussions, but also to the more minor collisions that happen in virtually every play of the game.

On Dec. 25, 2015, Concussion hit the box office, telling the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the neuropathologist who identified the case of CTE, and made the link between the sport and the syndrome. The film ended with a montage of football "big hits" - a highlight reel commonly shown at the end of football seasons to remind fans of some of the most dramatic moments. The intent is that ,after seeing the movie, viewers will find these clips chilling rather than exciting. But is it enough?

Unfortunately, even with the attention on the risk of brain injuries in football, we doubt Americans will be willing to find a new favorite pastime.

Consider this - Concussion has generated $40 million worldwide since its release date last year, according to IMDb. As a comparison, the NFL raked in $12.4 billion this season, Forbes reported on Feb. 7. Clearly, football is not at risk of losing support from fans.

But if the game is to continue, something's gotta give. We believe a reform is in order, and before we are met with protests from millions of football enthusiasts across the country, we would like to say, it has been done before.

Football has been under scrutiny in the past and has come back better - and safer - than ever.

In 1904, The Chicago Tribune reported a startling 18 football-related deaths and 159 injuries. In 1905, Columbia, Northwestern and Duke Universities dropped their football programs, and President Teddy Roosevelt's alma mater, Harvard, considered doing the same.

Roosevelt, an avid football fan, stepped in to save the sport before it could self-destruct. He called on colleges and universities to band together to change the culture.

In 1906, an intercollegiate conference was held and significant rule changes were implemented, like the creation of a neutral zone between the offensive and defensive players and the addition of the forward pass. The following year, the number of deaths dropped to 11.

However, as these changes were enacted over 100 years ago, it is time to reevaluate.

At no point in the history of football have the men on the field been as big or powerful as they are today. With greater focus on weightlifting and training, the NFL produces players who are stronger and faster than they were 50 years ago.

It's physics: force is the product of mass times acceleration. When both mass and acceleration increase, the result is a force powerful enough to be fatal.

The most heartbreaking part of this problem is that these injuries don't have to happen. Concussions only seem like an inevitable by-product of football because the way the sport's structure allows them to be.

Change the game, change the outcome. It's that simple.

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