A Fiancee Tossed Around Like a Football


Racism in basketball . . . domestic violence in football. Does sports cause more psychological damage than benefits?


Yesterday, I talked about racism in basketball. Today, the focus is on the sexism of domestic violence in football. Sure makes you wonder whether sports causes more psychological damage than benefits, doesn't it?

Coincidental with the end of the first big weekend of the most popular sport in the USA, the NFL made headlines for another reaons. A video was released of star player Ray Rice tossing his fiancee around like a football, leaving her unconscious with a possible concussion.

Many theories abound about what makes our version of football so popular here-- including vicarious pleasure, identification with the aggressor, hope of winning, and symbolic aspects of sex being played out.

Although the football commissioner had already admitted that the punishment of a 2-game suspension was too lenient, Mr. Rice has now been suspended indefinitely by the league and cut by his team. Of course, what he and his now wife need is high quality psychiatric care-- that and/or appropriate punishment for Mr. Rice. Whether the "court-ordered counseling" follows expert-guidelines for this situation must seem questionable, given that Mrs. Rice has recently said that she wishes they had just been left alone. It's the kind of statement often made by those who can't escape psychologically from an abusive situation.

Hopefully, an expert in sport psychiatry will be involved. Back in the early 1990s, a colleague and I started the first academic Sport Psychiatry Institute. That led to the publication of the book Sport Psychiatry (in 2000) and the establishment of the International Society for Sport Psychiatry.

All sports in the USA are trying to reduce the brutal violence, injuries, and substance abuse used to obtain peak performance. The research already out there calls out for reducing concussions that cause encephalopathy at a young age, for reducing the aggression that becomes a learned behavior, and for reducing the increased hostility in fans following the event.

My heart tells me that I still love football, despite my own multiple severe concussions from it years ago-- but my head tells me this is a bit of madness.



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