A Modest Proposal: Let’s Ban All Sports!

In the aggregate, sports cost society a tremendous lot of money.

Isn’t it about time America banned soccer? Not because of British hooligans or the vuvuzela that has now made it into your local dollar store, although Heaven knows soccer has plenty to answer for on both those scores. No, the question at hand is whether soccer should be banned because of the other costs it imposes on society.

This comes up thanks to a little story from a few weeks back about a new study finding that “heading” a soccer ball can lead to traumatic brain injury. The damage is not so severe that players will need to be institutionalized. At worst, some of them will end up talking like George W. Bush. This is still not something to be wished on anyone.

Okay, so perhaps we don’t need to ban soccer outright. Perhaps we should only require players to wear helmets. But what about sports in general? In the aggregate, they cost society a tremendous lot of money.

According to the National Center for Sports Safety, more than 3.5 million children receive medical treatment for sports injuries every year. Sports and recreation account for a fifth of traumatic brain injuries among young people, which the CDC says have increased 60 percent in the past decade. Overall injury rates for various sports are surprisingly high: 28 percent of youth football players get hurt. So do a quarter of all youth baseball players, more than a fifth of all youth soccer players, and even 15 percent of all youth basketball players. Even gymnastics is responsible for tens of thousands of injuries a year.

And those are just children’s injuries; we haven’t even gotten to the middle-aged players of handball, tennis, and golf who wind up in the emergency room. But the CDC reports that “more than 10,000 people receive treatment in the nation’s emergency departments (ED) each day for injuries sustained in” sports, recreational, and exercise activities. “At least one of every five ED visits for an injury results from participation in sports or recreation.”

Obviously, this imposes huge costs on society. Those injured players who are insured drive up premiums for everybody. Those who are not insured receive charity care, which drives up hospital rates. People who play sports are engaging in risky behavior that hurts us all, for their own selfish enjoyment. Somebody needs to put a stop to this.

If you think the preceding paragraph is a barrel of 180-proof rot, good for you. But this is precisely the sort of argument that is being made in other areas of what is subversively known as public health.

We are told, for example, that obesity costs in the U.S. now stand at about $170 billion, second only to the social cost of smoking. Obesity is commonly referred to as an “epidemic,” and is being used to justify all sorts of intrusions into personal life. Matters have now reached the point that an Ohio social-services department has taken a boy from his family because he is too fat.

The federal government also is trying to reduce the amount of salt Americans consume. In September the FDA requested comments “relevant to the dietary intake of sodium as well as current and emerging approaches designed to promote sodium reduction.” Too much salt is bad for you, but not all salt is bad for you. Not long ago Scientific American reported, “In just the past few months researchers have published seemingly contradictory studies showing that excess sodium in the diet leads to heart attacks, reduces your blood pressure or has no effect at all.”

And regardless of whether salt is good or bad for you, people like it. When various prepared-food makers, needled by busybodies, have reduced the sodium content of soups, frozen foods, and condiments the changes have been met by—literally—consumer distaste.

Nevertheless, proponents of government meddling are eager to see Washington dictate people’s dietary choices because those choices have the potential to affect other people, however indirectly. Government’s job used to be (and still properly is) to protect our rights, leaving us free to do as we please up to the point that we violate someone else’s rights. But if government can regulate whatever merely affects someone else, then—since anything can be said to affect someone – government can regulate absolutely everything.

To many, this is a feature, not a bug. But those who would like government to dictate more of your personal choices have another reason for doing so as well: They think you’re an idiot. As one e-mail correspondent put it recently, “Why shouldn't our leaders, whom we have elected, choose to do what is actually best for us, even if we don't have sense enough to realize it?”

Why not? One reason has already been stated: It is not government’s job to decide what is best for us. Second, you cannot give politicians the power to impose good choices alone. When you give politicians the power to impose good choices, you necessarily give them the power to impose bad ones as well. Nobody has proposed banning soccer and other injury-inducing sports, at least not yet. But there are those who think government should have the power to do so if it wanted, and that is bad enough.

A. Barton Hinkle is a columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, where this article originally appeared.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ­­­||

    I wouldn't miss them.

  • Sports = Warfare Practice||

    Competitive Sports are Warfare Practice for the young, and Warfare Replacement for adults.

    They teach the one lesson of the city State. Competition.

    Do unto thy neighbor before he does unto thee.

    It's the Prisoner's Dilemma.

    Civilizations which fail to grow mark themselves for extinction. Constant growth is the only condition under which civilization can persist. It cannot continue in decline; it cannot continue standing still.

    In Collapse, Jared Diamond notes that a civilization’s collapse very often swiftly follows its peak. In an article for The New York Times (1 January 2005), titled “The Ends of the World as We Know Them,” he remarks:

    History warns us that when once-powerful societies collapse, they tend to do so quickly and unexpectedly. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise: peak power usually means peak population, peak needs, and hence peak vulnerability.

    P.S. That's why Ron Paul will be a disaster for the US Empire. Ron Paul for destroying civilization faster!!!

  • Jason's Mother||

    Jason forgot to provide the link to the quote in bold:

    Thesis #12: Civilization must always grow.
    by Jason Godesky
    23 October 2005
    http://rewild.info/anthropik/2.....ways-grow/

    take care dearies, he seems to love you all alot

  • Jason's Mother's Boyfriend||

    Shut up bitch! Get me another beer. I'm going downstairs to Jason's room to see if he's dressed yet. I'll be back in 20 minutes.

  • Ron Paul vs Prisoner's Dilemma||

    Ron Paul absolutely does not understand the Prisoner's Dilemma and the nature of city Statism (civilization.)

  • Spencer||

    Nope. Sports arise because people are bored. Competition arises mainly for mate selection purposes. So, you've got bored people hardwired to compete so to find the best mate.

    Now, you've got a ball. Now you've got sport. For someone who supposedly reads Diamond, you should check into some sociobiology.

  • Competitive Sports = War||

    Making Men of Them: Male Socialization for Warfare and Combative Sports
    Chick and Loy. 2. 2001 World Cultures 12(1): 2-17.
    http://eclectic.ss.uci.edu/~dr.....1chick.pdf

    War, Sports and Aggression: An Empirical Test of Two Rival Theories
    by RICHARD G. SIPES
    American Anthropologist
    Volume 75, Issue 1, pages 64–86, February 1973
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.....0/abstract

  • spencer||

    Crap link to crab studies get you nowhere.

    Competition arises out of mate selection. Check out your Red Queen by Ridley, or anyone who studies and reports on hard sciences.

  • I've read the hard sciences||

    Cooperation beats competition every day.

    Michael Gilpin, "Population Dynamics," The 1995 Grolier Encyclopedia. Gilpin cites the following bibliography: Andrewartha, H.G., and Birch, L.C., The Ecological Web (1986); Begon, M., and Mortimer, M., Population Ecology, 2d rev. ed. (1986); Chapman, D.G., and Gallucci, V.F., eds., Quantitative Population Dynamics(1981); Hutchinson, G. Evelyn, An Introduction to Population Biology (1978); Smith, Robert L., Ecology and Field Biology, 3d ed. (1980); Solomon, Maurice E., Population Dynamics (1976); Whittaker, Robert, Communities and Ecosystems, 2d ed. (1975).

  • kill yourself||

    That's funny, my team sport taught cooperation.

    In fact, it's impossible to be successful at most team sports without cooperation.
    Are you always so easily proven wrong, especially when youre constantly running your dicksicker about cooperation?

  • Competitive Sports = War||

    "Competitive sport is war without gunfire." That's how Fan Hong, a Chinese national swimmer and later academic, described Beijing's attitude toward gold medals.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/s.....d=92479526

  • Whiterun Indian||

    My experience on a bowling team says otherwise.

    Awwww.....did someone steal your sweetroll?

  • cw||

    I could see WI as a disgruntled Nord guard.

  • Competitors are losers||

    Additionally, individuals who develop a cooperative stance tend to feel more in control of their lives and do not live for approval from others. They tend to feel good. This is in sharp contrast to the constant intensity of the competitive individual.

  • anon||

    I agree with the general sentiment but the reason sports isnt a very good comparison is because it's really easy to point out that sports may put people in the hospital for injuries, but the amount of people being in good shape and saving money from the healthcare system overrides this. It seems like this article would just get made fun of by people who are not libertarians to me. I think its ridic to ban things like salt and trans fat but this article wouldnt persuade me if I didn't

  • sarcasmic||

    Nobody has proposed banning soccer and other injury-inducing sports, at least not yet.

    Been to a playground lately?

    Teeter totters are gone. Sand boxes are gone. Monkey bars are gone. There are no trees to climb and the slides are gone as well. I was surprised to see one with a swing set, though the chains were encased in metal tubes to keep them from going slack.

    Might as well declare "fun" to be a crime.

  • ||

    So true. My old K-8 rural grade school (I graduated from there in 1972) looks more like a minimum security prison these days than a school. All the "dangerous" playground equipment is gone and the whole thing is fenced in.

  • Hannibal Lecter Elementary||

    Behold this brand new school in Las Vegas, Nevada: Hannibal Lecter Elementary. Is every child in this city a serial killer requiring maximum security incarceration during school hours?
    www.kunstler.com/eyesore_199906.html

  • ||

    Between 2000-2003 at my junior high school. They did everything you stated AND told us that no balls were allowed on the playground, and then told us we couldn't bring balls from home, and then told us that there was no touching of any sort allowed at recess...because we actually resorted to playing tag...in eight grade...

    No Joke.

    Not to mention all of the other policies that were implemented during this same period e.g. lockdown drills, security fences, drug dog searches, etc. etc.

    I didn't go to an urban city school either, it was k-8, ~120 students in total, in rural north Idaho.

  • -||

    Yawn.
    You forgot to mention Jarts.

  • Gamboling is fun.||

    Farming is not.

    So why you put so much lovin' on agricultural city-Statism?

  • ||

    Why do you support the digicultural non-state lifeway?

  • ||

    Not happening in North Carolina, I'm glad to report.

  • ||

    Is it really that bad? Last time we were in the US there were still plenty of slides and monkey bars at the local playground (the local elementary school). And what's dangerous about sand boxes?

  • I||

    I think Reason is approaching the shark and preparing to jump.

  • Brett L||

    Heh. Because all those soccer players would be reading Proust and writing symphonies if they weren't so brain damaged. My brother and a number of my good friends played it for years. Love them all, but very few gave up promising intellectual careers due to their "traumatic brain injuries".

  • ||

    So you're saying playing sports is risky? That's crazy talk. Next you'll probably tell me that water is wet and math is hard.

  • KDN||

    This article is just a reminder that the future is more likely to resemble Demolition Man than 1984. It is for this reason that I plan to purchase the royalty rights for all the Free Credit jingles. My children's children will be inflation-adjusted millionaires!

  • Mr. Chartreuse||

    I am happy that Taco Bell will win the Food Wars, though. Mmmmmm....Chicken Quesadillas (if they haven't been banned). Although, I'm not looking forward to using three seashells for hygiene purposes.

  • Spencer||

    And all the fines for swearing!

  • Ska||

    I'm thinking the exact opposite - we could really use a technological breakthrough in the TP arena. Maybe subsisting on Taco Bell alone will push those innovations.

  • Robert||

    The problem is that people can't stand to see certain medical problems left untreated, and can't stand to pay for them unless everyone else kicks in too. Has any jursidiction even significantly backed away from general responsibility it has taken on for treatment of the disabled? The trend seems irreversible, and my only hope is that society becomes rich enough to easily afford to tax people enough that even dangerous lifestyles can be afforded by all.

  • Jumbie||

    "Nobody has proposed banning soccer and other injury-inducing sports, at least not yet."

    Oh how little you know your enemy...

    >The principal of Earl Beatty Public

    >School banned the balls this week

    >after a parent recently suffered a

    >concussion from being hit in the

    >head with a soccer ball.


    >The principal, Alicia Fernandez,

    >banned hard balls, claiming they're

    >dangerous.


    >"Kids were coming in complaining of

    >injury, or being scared," she said.

  • ||

    Eat shit, Alicia Fernandez

  • Kaon Kristen ||

    When I played Little League, when I got out of the tee-ball ranks, I was terrified of that fucking ball and the little balls o' testosterone that were hurling them at me.

    Instead of switching to slow-pitch girls' softball, I should have just sued the town to make them use Nerf balls instead of regular baseballs!! Damn!

  • ­­­||

    What, are you nuts? You should have sued them for mental anguish and settled out of court for half a million.

  • Rhywun||

    I seem to recall that "Ultimate Fighting" is (was?) banned somewhere. And I hear people calling for banning boxing all the time.

  • Untermensch||

    They've been calling for banning boxing since at least the late 1700s and there were anti-boxing statutes on the books in the U.K. and many U.S. states by the early 1800s.

    I'm doing research on a biography of a nineteenth-century boxer and states were constantly trying to ban pugilism in the early and mid 1800s. The only thing that saved it was when sparring with gloves (previously considered a separate sport) and the Marquis of Queensbury rules took over, making it just enough less brutal to keep the moralists at bay. But it was touch and go for a while and if John L. Sullivan and “Gentleman” Jim Corbett hadn't been so popular, the anti-pugilism forces might have carried the day.

    So calls for banning boxing aren’t new.

  • ||

    isn't most of the world's problems caused by balls?
    Get rid of balls and you have a world of fat happy women....shopping, with an ever expanding economy.

  • Spencer||

    God no! Do you really think that would happen? You know what happens when you get 5 women working on something together?!

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    You know what happens when you get 5 women working on something together?!

    The Brady Bunch?

  • Brett L||

    The form at least 3 factions and backstab each other?

  • Brett L||

    The = they

  • spencer||

    +1

  • Your state legislature||

    We're working on a way to ban all sports while still putting our fair state massively into hock for new state-financed stadiums. You needn't thank us; improving everything is what we do.

  • Hiram G||

    Sport should not be a pastime or a distraction for the bourgeoisie of the towns.

  • ­­­||

    There are two "s"s in sports, you snaggle-toothed eurotrash.

  • ||

    "Matters have now reached the point that an Ohio social-services department has taken a boy from his family because he is too fat."

    At which point the parents would have been entirely justified in using force to prevent the kidnapping. We have the Second Amendment for a reason.

    :\

  • Kaon Kristen ||

    Thudguards for all!

  • first||

    Amandine is a Parisian born Jewish girl. She teaches hip-hop dancing to teenagers at one of the many dancing institutes in Paris and also works as a show dancer. This caring and warm-hearted girl loves animals too.

    Amandine openly admits to being an exhibitionist and loves to wear skimpy outfits that show off her toned, dancer’s body, both during her dancing classes and when she goes out clubbing in Paris. She is very comfortable with her body but this petite brunette wishes she was taller. Amandine's training as a dancer really shines through when she is being photographed or filmed. She literally performs a private dance for the camera, engaging the lens with her sensual movements and inviting eyes.

    With her upbeat attitude towards life and her sweet smile, Amandine is great fun to be around!

    http://www.hegre-art.com/models#action=show&id=145

  • ­­­||

    But does she "love" animals?

  • first||

    Yes

  • KW6||

    She's in PARIS. In France, one must love animals . . .or be lonely . . .pretty much like being an Occutard.

  • far but imbalanced||

    why does a group of thinkers dedicated to logic resort so quickly to ad hominem arguments / attacks? is it part of the board's culture, or like an inside joke i just don't get? anyway i teach with a woman who has seizures from playing soccer in college (they think). I'd rather put my kid in boxing than soccer, if injury avoidance is the goal.

    just sayin'. also that kid in Ohio wasn't yanked just 'cause he's fat ... read up and you'll see the entire home situation was abusive / dangerous.

    three sides to every story: what he said, what she said, and what the person in the apartment overheard.

  • ­­­||

    "I'd rather put my kid in boxing than soccer, if injury avoidance is the goal."

    You are - wait for it - a fucking moron.

  • ||

    (they think)


    Well, you can't get any more definitive than that, can you? Must be the soccer.

    Christ. I've played the game for 29 of my 33 years on this planet, and much of the time I played a position that demanded heading punts straight out of the air.

    I do not have seizures. Nor am I a brain-damaged idiot.

  • ryan ||

    "The case of an 8-year-old Cleveland Heights boy taken from his family because he weighs more than 200 pounds has renewed a debate on whether parents should lose custody if a child is severely obese."

    "The boy was removed from his family and was placed in foster care in October after county case workers said his mother wasn't doing enough to control his weight"

    "Cuyahoga County removed the boy because case workers considered the mother's inability to get his weight down a form of medical neglect."

    "county case workers said his mother wasn't doing enough to control his weight"

    "They said that the child's weight gain was caused by his environment and that the mother wasn't following doctor's orders -- which she disputes"

    ""This child's problem was so severe that we had to take custody,""

    ""A 218-pound 8-year-old is a time bomb," Caplan acknowledged. "But the government cannot raise these children. A third of kids are fat. We aren't going to move them all to foster care. We can't afford it, and I'm not sure there are enough foster parents to do it. ""

    "Lawyers for the mother, a substitute elementary school teacher who is also taking vocational school classes, think the county has overreached in this case by arguing that medical conditions the boy is at risk for -- but doesn't yet have -- pose an imminent danger to his health."

    What's that 'far but imbalanced'? I can't hear you over all this contradictory evidence!

  • ||

    The CDC's figures, if they're to be believed, rank the cost of accidents and sports injuries second only to their fudged figures for obesity-related healthcare costs.

    Personally, I don't think the "ban sports" initiative will ever have the steam, or go nearly as far, as the nannies' ferocious attacks on food choice and fat people's civil rights. I doubt sports participation could ever invite the moral panic and hatred that fatties do merely by existing.

  • Rush Limboo||

    “heading” a soccer ball can lead to traumatic brain injury

    I covered this about ten years ago. I even launched the "Keep Our Own Kids Safe" (KOOKS) campaign to fight soccer brain injuries.

    Nice to see that Reason is finally catching up.

  • ||

    If people are so idiotic that they cannot figure out how to run their own lives, then how can they manage to select wise leaders to run their lives for them? Aren't they too stupid to make the right choices in leaders?

  • ||

    And what's dangerous about sand boxes?

    Oh, I don't know...just a little thing called SHAITAN!!!

  • Mike from Boston||

    Sports have already been costing society a tremendous amount of money, even if medical costs aren't socialized. Too many sports arenas are bought and paid for by state and local tax dollars, while the profits and revenues coming in to those establishments goes directly into the pockets of the Jerry Jones's of the world.

    In what bizarro universe is that justifiable?

  • dean the dream||

    Amen. I don't care if no one, some, or all play sports. What I do object to is the massive tax subsidies for owners, coaches, and players at all levels. Let them pay their own way. Where's Ron Paul and those tea party people on this topic? What about Grinch, Romney, Morning Joe Scarborough and Rush Limbah? We taxpayers pay a lot of people to horse around in sports entertainment. :(

  • ||

    Maybe someone has done this, but I think it would be interesting to see a thorough analysis of what the world of professional sports would look like in America without any kind of subsidy or tax advantage.

  • TNTurkey||

    I used to play sports. Then I took an arrow in the knee.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement