I think we have up to 15-25 years of Football as we know it left. As more data comes back on concussions, you will see less and less kids playing the game. I don't really want my future children to play. I'm not sure of a good fix for football. Hockey is easier as you can eliminate checking and make it more like the women's game. You'd have to move up to the Olympic sized sheet but it would still be a fast and exciting game. Helmet technology will do nothing to prevent concussions until you can inject a gel into the skull to cushion the brain as it bounces around.
I've got a bad (gut) feeling about this. I see the twilight of football in 30 years unless there are some medical breakthroughs or rule changes that can eliminate them. This all resolves around CTE.
Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed post-mortem. If CTE can be diagnosed in a living person, that's a game changer.
We're seeing NFL players retire in the prime of their careers because they're worried about the long term effect of concussions. They've seen players like Dave Duerson and Junior Seau commit suicide, and they're understandably looking out for themselves.
Finally, this all could come down to insurance companies. They will probably end up raising insurance rates on living people with CTE, provided a diagnosis on living people is viable. The game either adapts to stop it, whether by reducing or eliminating vicious hits, or people decline to play the game. Maybe the equipment will change. I honestly don't know.
The future of football at every level is going to be fast, safe, and high scoring. Gone will be the days of the Power I, Pro Set and "3 Yards and a Cloud of Dust" mentality. Defensive players will barely be able to touch offensive players, linemen will play more like basketball players, and tackling will be rugby-style only. Scores will go into the high tens, low hundreds, and touchdowns will happen at an incredibly rapid clip. A variety of scoring options come to fruition, from 1-point touchbacks, to 4-point drop-kicks to 10-point scores by giving up your 4th down and doubling down that you'll score on 3rd.
Football will become the safest contact sport after years of concussion research funded by the football-industrial complex and college football will lead the way with rule changes and equipment changes that push progress ever faster. Naturally, with a new football paradigm in place, instability brings new perennial powers to the fore. Oregon and Maryland use superior brand support to become power players and new dynasties. Rutgers and Boston College become powerhouse programs due to uncontested media and population centers. With accompanying media destabilization making the new broadcast landscape person-based, not territory-based, the Big Ten, ACC and SEC maintain their status as power players, while the Big 12 and PAC 12 fall into relative obscurity. With football now safe for everyone to play and enjoy, the sport enjoys a new golden age, with more dollars, more interest and more excitement pushing an already beautiful sport into a true global phenomenon. Also Rutgers wins 3 National Championships between 2030 and 2040.
Our collective conscience may never rest easy knowing what we know now about what football does to the human brain. Although any educated fan now knows that every hard hit has the potential to take decades off a young man's life, football is so deeply embedded in the fabric of our society that we try not to think about its side effects. To consider them too strongly leads one to wonder if supporting football is an objectively bad thing to do from a human interest standpoint.
Perhaps football fans of today will be examined like motorsports enthusiasts of the 1960's, an era before safety restraints, roll cages, track barriers and mandatory fireproof suits. Looking back, it seems impossible to imagine how so many could show up to watch Grand Prix racing, where your only hope in the event of a crash was that you were thrown far enough out of your car to avoid burning alive but not so far that you couldn't survive hitting the ground. In response to the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Dale Earnhardt, F1 and NASCAR introduced a tremendous amount of safety measures that make the 1960's look barbaric by comparison.
Boxing changed as well following the death of Duk-Koo Kim after going the distance with Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini in that 12 rounds was deemed to be enough to crown a winner. Fifteen rounds pushed the limits of human endurance beyond what a televised audience was willing to handle. However, although vastly improved medical care has made boxing a safer sport, it still consists of two competitors punching each other until one can no longer stand. Motorsports consist of competitors piloting a vehicle designed to go as fast as possible, and hitting things at 200mph will always have consequences. Football is a contest where one team must bring the ball carrier to the ground before the ball can reach the end zone, and that means someone is likely to get hurt.
Perhaps someday, history will view us as barbarians for celebrating this violent spectacle. I can take some solace in the fact that football players are increasingly educated on the hazards of the game and thus are more equipped than ever to make a properly informed decision about whether or not to subject themselves to them.With that small measure of comfort, now is the time to enjoy the highs of Big Ten Football while we can. The future is always coming, and the only thing we can be sure of is that it will be different from the present.