CHARLOTTE — North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora questioned the validity of studies detailing football’s role in the onset of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, also known as CTE, a degenerative brain disease found in cases of repetitive head trauma.
It hasn’t been definitively proven that football causes CTE, Fedora said during his appearance at Atlantic Coast Conference media days, but the fact that the connection has been made has impacted how people view the sport.
Fedora also spoke specifically about how rule changes in college football are changing the game, and not for the better. As football goes, Fedora said, so goes our country.
“Our game is under attack,” Fedora said. “I fear that the game will be pushed so far from what we know that we won’t recognize it 10 years from now. And if it does, our country will go down, too.”
In recent years, the NCAA has adopted measures designed to improve player safety, from beefing up previously nonexistent targeting rules and compiling a national guideline for handling concussion protocol.
The Football Bowl Subdivision will enact a new rule this fall for kickoffs. In addition to the change that moved touchbacks up to a team’s own 25-yard line, teams will now have the option of calling for a fair catch on kicks that are caught inside the 25-yard line. The ensuing possession will begin at the 25.
Fedora also relayed the following anecdote: He spoke with a general – military branch unknown – and asked what made America’s forces the strongest in the world. It’s because the U.S. is the only country that plays football, the general replied, per Fedora.
"I think because of the lessons you learn in the game of football relate to everything you’re going to do for the rest of your life," Fedora said. "When we stop learning those lessons, we’re going to struggle.
Asked about the possibility of significant injury that comes with playing football, Georgia Tech linebacker Brant Mitchell acknowledge the sport’s inherent risk.
“I’m taking the necessary precautions to prevent that,” Mitchell said. “I’m playing the game as clean as I can and trying to keep my head out of every tackle and trying to give myself the best chance to live a long and successful life after football.”