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Damar Hamlin’s injury raises issues about other football dangers

His heart incident is said to be very rare. But other serious injuries are not. The sport needs to change, especially for kids.

A Green Bay Packers fan holds a sign for the injured Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin on Sunday. Hamlin is recovering from his injury, but the episode has caused a lot of football players, fans and commentators to talk about the dangers of the sport. (Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press)

The National Football League (NFL) playoffs begin this weekend, but some fans are wondering if they should watch the games.

In a recent Monday Night Football game, Damar Hamlin, a defensive back for the Buffalo Bills, collapsed after making a tackle. His heart had stopped. Quick medical assistance revived him, and Hamlin was taken to a hospital.

It was a scary moment for the players and everyone watching on television. The good news is that doctors say Hamlin is making a “fairly remarkable recovery.”

His injury reminded some fans what a dangerous game football can be. The game, however, is not dangerous because of what happened to Hamlin.

Hamlin may have suffered what is called commotio cordis. This is when a player is struck right over the heart at just the wrong time during their heartbeat. This can also happen when a player is struck in the chest by a hard object such as a baseball, hockey puck or lacrosse ball.

Doctors say commotio cordis is very rare. A one in a million accident. The truth is football is dangerous because of all the other injuries that happen during the game. The broken bones, the torn knees, ankles and shoulders that are a regular part of any football game.

Should colleges alolw football players to risk damaging their brains?

In addition, football players may get chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) from repeated blows to the head. CTE can cause athletes to have symptoms such as headaches, confusion, memory loss and anger control issues. Studies show players who play football longer have a greater risk of developing CTE.

So it seems to me a more important question is what changes are needed to make football safer, especially for the kids who love and play the sport.

First, kids should only play flag football before high school. Flag football is a safer game in which players “tackle” players by grabbing a flag from their belt.

There is no reason for kids to risk their bodies and brains playing tackle football when they are 8 or 10 years old. After all, according to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, football legends such as Tom Brady, Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Jerry Rice and Lawrence Taylor did not play tackle football until high school.

Next, football seasons should be shorter. Every year, The Washington Post publishes its final Top 20 for local high school football teams. Some teams play 14 or even 15 games.

Nine or 10 games should be plenty for any high school football team. It should be the same with college teams. Ten or 11 games, including bowl games, should make up any college season. I know some folks will say this will never happen. But what happened to Damar Hamlin should make us start thinking more about the players.