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Obama: Football needs to change to lessen concussions

Olivier Douliery | MCT
Olivier Douliery | MCT
President Barack Obama strikes a pose as he awards the Commander-in-Chief Trophy to the Air Force Academy football team on Monday, April 23, 2012, at the White House in Washington, DC.
By Roberta Rampton, Reuters

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama said he loves football but thinks the sport should “probably change gradually” so that there are fewer concussions, particularly at the college level.

“I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football,” Obama said in a wide-ranging interview with The New Republic magazine published early on Sunday on its website.

Football is America’s most popular televised sport, an industry worth $9 billion a year. But in recent years, suicides by brain-injured players and lawsuits from their families have raised concerns about the impact of repeated concussions.

In the interview, Obama was asked how he squares his love of the game with rising awareness of the impact of repeated head injuries on football players.

“I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence,” Obama said.

“In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much,” Obama said.

Obama said he is “more worried about college players” than those in the National Football League who he noted are represented by a union and are “well-compensated” for the hits they take.

“You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That’s something that I’d like to see the NCAA think about,” he said, referring to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which runs college sports.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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