American Football is a British game that appeared in the USA in the mid 19th century and became a national game.
It is a very popular game especially in the U.S it is played across the country. It is played by two teams of eleven sides. It is a very physical game with constant collisions, tackles and constant aggressive falls. Teams get points by advancing the ball to the opponent team’s end zone by either running or throwing it to a teammate. It is a sport that prides itself on its commitment and toughness under physical duress. The constant collisions and the physical and aggressive nature of the game what promoted researchers, to carry out  an in depth survey of any long term or short term brain damage on retired and active  National Football league players. The media have been putting emphasize need to look into the plight of NFL players following many NFL players suffering from concussion-related injuries.

Actually, the history of American football often is referred to an early period of rugby. The main act, which associates with these games is kicking at a goal and running over a line. As the matter of fact, rugby rules in major constitute American football regulations. Nevertheless, there were some changes embedded in the game. The name of innovator who changed the game was Walter Camp. He was known as ‘the father of American football’. The main changes that characterize American football and differ it from rugby are down and distance rules, and a line of scrimmage (Professional Football Researchers Association). Firstly, football was a type of collage game, which was developed by college coaches Knute Rockne, Eddie Branch, Amos Alonzo Stagg and others. Year after year, American football was becoming more and more popular. From the late 19th to early 20th century, American football turned out to be the most popular sport in the USA. The college football traditions and bowl games attracted attention of the audience to a football game. This changed American Football from a regional into a national game.

How to Deal with the Game?

American Football is a game played  between two teams of eleven players each. The goal of the game is scoring of the points, which demonstrate the advantage of a leading team. Getting points is possible due to putting the ball in the opposite team’s end zone. It is possible to achieve this goal by running with the ball or throwing it to a teammate.

Admittedly, American Football is the most popular type of college, school or professional games in the USA. The rules of this game differ according to place the game is played. It means that school football and college football has its own particularities. There are different institutions, which govern football at different levels. The National Federation of State High School Associations direct high school football matches. The National College Athletic Association deals with college football plays. The National Football League governs the highest league for professional players. The high school football appeared in 1880s and enjoys its regional popularity till nowadays while the college and professional football games got a national recognition.

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Historical Events of American Football Development

American Football is a particular ball – related game, which is closely bounded with Canadian football, but it has its own differences entailed with field and general game rules. Nevertheless, American Football history might be traced to early football played in Great Britain in the mid  19th century. The first half of 19th century brought a variety of football games to American colleges and universities. Therefore, it is common to think that differences in college, school and professional games appeared in mid 19th century.

The most popular Rutgers and Princeton Universities played their first intercollegiate football game on 6 November, 1869. The rules of that game closely resembled the rules of soccer. The Rutgers won that game with the score 6-4. In 1872, the rugby–style games were presented to the USA. It was a game between Harvard’s football team and McGill University. The McGill University’s play could be featured as rugby, but the game was held according to Harvard’s house rules. Such combination determined a starting point to American Football we know today.

The popularity of American football increased because collegiate football became a dominant version of sportive games in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. College football as a part of American Football still has widespread appeal in the United States of America. It attracts millions of people and has become a national game nowadays.

The origin of professional games goes back to 1892. William Heffelfinger known as William ‘Pudge’ got a first $500 contract to play in the game for the Allegheny Athletic Association against Pittsburg Athletic Club. In 1903, the core of professional football moved westward to Ohio. In the late 1910s, the mass dispersal moved Midwest. In 1920, the American Professional Football Association was formed. It was created as a temporary alliance for combined actions of teams from regional state associations. Two years later the League changed its name to National Football League. Its first game was played on 3 October, 1920 in Dayton, Ohio where the host Triangles entirely defeated the Columbus Panhandles with the score 14-0. As the result, the National Football League became a major league of football in the country and professional football became a national phenomenon started initially as a kind of sport of Midwestern industrial towns. National Football League Championship Game in 1958 brought great fame to the football games. This game was proclaimed ‘The Greatest Game ever played’ (Georgetown Magazine). 

In 1960, a rival league to National Football League appeared, and it was called American Football League. It put pressure on the senior league and prompted the merger between both leagues and created the Super Bowl, which is the most watched television event in the USA and is held on the annual basis. During long time, there were appearing different leagues of either professional or other level, but the most of them unfortunately were short – living.

General Rules of American Football

The rules of American football vary according to the place the game is played at. However, there are general standards to follow. Some of them are of great importance. The field and the players, the game duration, an advancing of the ball, the change of positions, scoring, and kicks are very important.

Football field should be neither less nor bigger than 360 by 160 feet. It is approximately 48,8 meters or 53,3 yards. There must be a long line, which is called sideline and a shorter line known as an end line. It is important to note that sidelines and end lines are out of bounds. The goal line is situated near each end of the field. As the matter of fact, the goal lines are 100 yards apart. On the field in the American football, there are so-called end zones or scoring areas. They stretch ten yards beyond every goal line to every end line. Eventually, the end zone inserts the goal line. The end line is not a part of its constitution. The Yard lines are very important, as well. They come each 5 yards long. They must be numbered each 10 yards beginning from a goal line to 50 yard line. There are two ranks of one yard lines or harsh marks also on the football field. The lines arrangement makes football field resemble the cooking grill with the similar lines order. There are also numbers on the field that indicate the distance to the next goal line.

The duration of the game in American football consists of four equal fifteen minutes quarters. The time of quarters might be less, if it is not a professional game, for example, twelve minutes quarters in high school. The half time ranges’ duration depends on the level of competitions. It might be from 10 to 20 minutes.

Start of halves is a very important part of the game. It determines which of two teams will start competition. The coin toss repeats every time when the half starts. The results of the first half sortation do not automatically determine a beginner of all halves. Each time when the half starts, teams choose a new beginner. The referee determines tree main options that the team winner of the coin toss gets. The team might delay the first choice of another team and has a choice to start the second half. The  winner team might also choose which goal to defer. In addition, the team might determine to kick or receive an opening kickoff.

Advancing the ball takes a significant part of the game. Advancing the ball determines that the team offense (possessing the ball) has four chances to advance the ball towards their opponents, at least ten yards. As soon as offense succeeds getting at least ten yards, the team gets first down. It means that the team starts a new set of four downs to get ten yards more or to score. Players might advance the ball in two ways. First one is by rushing and the second is by throwing the ball to a teammate (passing the football).

Each half of the game starts with the kickoff. The team might kickoff after scoring touchdowns. In the National Football League, the team kicks with the help of kicking tee from the 35 yard. The main goal of the kicks is to catch and advance the tall as soon as possible.

In American football as in any other type of sport there are penalties to punish the offending team. Mainly, most penalties consist of moving the football towards the team offender’s end zone. There are some special teams in modern American Football. The punters, place-kickers, long snappers, returners, and the holders form the special sub-teams in the National Football League.

The strategy in American Football takes a great part. It depends on the event that the game stops after every down, giving the team a chance to call a new play. Therefore, coach of the team does his best to create a perfect strategy. Each coach knows that rushing games are not as risky as passing games are. Nevertheless, there are relatively risky rushing and relatively safe passing games. That is why, the coach of each team develops its own strategy for game arrangement.

Impact of Playing American Professional Football on the Long Term brain Function

In recent times, suicides by NFL alumni and frequent giant class-action laws suits have threatened the livelihood of the game. They have put into question, whether the NFL teams actually look Clinical studies were performed by independent scientist in 2005 to determine whether multiple concussion cause problems such as depression and early-onset dementia (Dementia is the loss of brain functions. It affects memory, thinking, language, judgment and behavior). Dr. Robert Cantu and Dr. Bennett Omalu examined the brain tissues of three deceased NFL players (Terry Long, Mike Webster and Andre Waters) all had suffered numerous concussions throughout their industrious NFL careers. Before their premature death, all three of them had shown symptoms of depression, sharply deteriorated cognitive function, pain attacks and psychiatric symptoms such as paranoia.

After the examination, the brain tissue of the three revealed neurotrophil threads, cell drop out and neurofibrillary tangles. Both doctors concluded that, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) was triggered by multiple NFL concussion and may have played a major role in the cause of their deaths. CTE, a neurological disorder, that was first discovered in boxing athletes who sustained multiple blows on the head. At its first stage, CTE symptoms may include poor concentration, poor memory, dizziness and headaches. It later progresses to Parkinsonism or dementia this causes symptoms such as slowing in muscle movement, tremor of the hands and hesitancy in speech.  The NFL still failed to acknowledge that there was a link between concussions and cognitive decline.

Events over the years would however change this. On17th December 2009, Chris Henry aged 26 a Cincinnati Bengals receiver died after falling (jumping) out of the back of a pickup truck. A postmortem study performed on Henry brain tissue by Dr. Omalu and Dr. Julian Bailes showed trademark signs of CTE on the deceased brain tissues. Henry was the twenty second NFL professional player to be diagnosed with CTE. It was not the only isolated case, In February 2011, Dave Duerson, a former Chicago Bears defenseman fatally shot himself on the chest. This was preceded by deteriorating cognitive symptoms, which he believed were linked to CTE. In May 2011, it was confirmed that Duerson had remarkable evidence of CTE in his brain tissue. There was no evidence of any other mental disorder. In April 2012, Ray Easterling a former Atlanta Falcon also committed suicide. He died of gunshot wounds after he shot himself several times. Previously, Easterling had experienced a variety of CTE symptoms, hand tremors, memory loss and the eventual dementia. Barely three weeks after Easterling death, a 20 year NFL veteran named Junior Seau committed suicide by shooting himself on the chest. Before his death, Seau had struggled with depression and other problems.

In 2009, a study sponsored by the NFL, showed that players between the age of 30-49 who had retired received a dementia related medical diagnosis at the rate of 1.9% this is 20 times the rate of people of the same age bracket who did not play professional football. Moreover, 6.1% of players beyond 50 years were diagnosed with dementia related health problem. This represented five times the national average.

The medical researches 

Under the background of such happenings, the NFL was prompted to take action. In the winter of 2011, group medical professions in the field undertook a research. The research involved 100 active and former National league players. They represented twenty seven teams and all positions.  The players underwent a brain SPECT imaging, clinical history, q-EEG, and multiple neuropsychological measures that included MicroCog. To meet the inclusion criteria the player must have played in the NFL for a minimum of three years. Current and former players who could not cease taking psychoactive medications for an appropriate period before the scan were excluded.  Before undertaking any activities, the players received explanations  about what the research entailed. They had to give a written informed consent with an institution review board-approved protocol.

All participants were interviewed by a physician. They completed a detailed history that included a 3I5-question DSM-IV driven questionnaire. This was meant to asses the overall and mental health of the participants. Waist and height sizes were obtained on all participants and waist to height ratio established. Instances of loss of consciousness and brain concussions wew also recorded. The participants were asked to recall the number of concussion they had experienced through out their careers. They were also asked about periods where they experienced distinct loss of consciousness. However, past medical records were not available for many participants. Documentation of such  experiences were hardly recorded in the eras that they played. Three computerized neuropsychological test were also administered to the participants.

They included  MicroCog this is an assessment of cognitive functions. The participants also tool continous performance test which meausured inhibition and attention. A mild cognitive impairment screen was also administered. The  players also underwent a high resolution brain SPECT imaging and  q-EEG. The detailed results obtained from the research suggested that playing professional football is associated with a significantly higher risk of permanent brain damage. The study also showed that, a retired NFL player compared to a healthy non NFL playing person of the same age bracket, had significantly reduced blood flow in the frontal cerebral region, the temporal region and occipital lobe region of the brain. This would result to a compromised neuropsychological functioning.

A study undertaken by Albert Einstein School of Medicine found that, the micro structural integrity of the brain tissues found in participants who suffered concussions were abnormally low compared to the micro integrity of the brain tissue of concussion free participants. The school had developed a technology called diffuse tensor imaging. The device could detect unique abnormalities in the brains of the ones who had concussions where other methods had failed. Such a device would go a long way in aiding NFL players with mild concussions.

Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy carried out a four-year study with the VA Boston system and the sport legacy institute. In a study of 85 people, the study showed 80% of them showed evidence of CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Nearly all of them played sport. 50 of the people found to have CTE were football players. 33 of them played in the NFL. Most of them were running backs and linemen positions that tend to expose one to more contact with the opposing players.

Over the years, NFL has under come under great legal and media pressure to look into the issue of brain damage among NFL players. Earlier this year, scores of law suits by thousands former NFL players now touched by concussion and head injuries were consolidated into one master complaint. The NFL was accused of hiding information that linked permanent head damage to football head-trauma.  The NFL has been forced to pay numerous compensation over the years. This compensation  is a have mainly been to former NFL players who have ended up with long term brain injuries as a result of their career playing American football.

Conclusion

American football is a part of the American culture but nevertheless, it is evident from the above examples, that it has over time caused unwarranted pain and health degradation to its players. The numerous instances of players showing symptoms of CTE and other chronic head conditions portray the ugly side of this game. More attention and emphasize should be put on protecting the current players. As well as, looking after the well-being of retired players whose live have dramatically changed due to the shortcomings living with a brain condition. Brain injury obtained while playing American football is no myth it’s a profound reality that needs to be quickly addressed and looked into.

American football is a unique sport, which appeared as an entertaining game and has become national game of the whole country. This game is about gaining points as much as gaining a territory. American Football attracts people all over the world. Therefore, there are international organizations, which support and develop such kind of sport. People root for their favorite teams all over the country. Joint emotional experience unites different people. In such a way, Football in America serves as some kind of social bounding. So, American Football is not only a part of sport but a part of the culture. Moreover, Football in the USA symbolizes an American psyche. American football is a typical game for Americans. It depends on the fact that people living in USA like big, loud and affective things. Therefore, they live in big cities, use big cars and need a lot of space. The best characteristic of American Football is the ability to high a competitive American spirit. The performance of team makes fans live and die during the game. 30 millions of Americans play American Football and the number of gamers is constantly increasing. As the matter of fact, American Football has become an integral part of USA leisure and turned out to be a symbol of American spirit and mentality.

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