American Football is the most popular sport in the United States. Every Sunday millions of Americans tune in to see their ‘gladiators’ in action. The NFL (National Football Association) however, is in a deep crisis at the moment. That could possibly change the way the game is played or even end the popular sport.
The reason for this is CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), a degenerative brain disease, found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma. In the last 15 years, American Football players in particular have been known to have this disease, that can only be diagnosed after death by brain tissue analysis.
The main reason for this is of course the violent character of the sport itself. They use their head as a weapon, just like a ram uses it to fight or a woodpecker uses it to cut a hole in a tree. The only thing is, humans are physiologically not made for this. The countless concussions are a clear indicator of this.
Constant (peer) pressure and the general attitude that team doctors have to keep the players up-and-running (at all costs) only increases the risk of brain injury.
Possible symptoms of CTE include: memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, paranoia, impulse control problems, aggression, depression (suicide), and eventually progressive dementia.
To me, the interesting thing about this situation is not the way the NFL is dealing with it. By paying hundreds of former players millions of dollars to prevent further lawsuits. I think it’s more interesting to see how the American society is treating their (former) heroes.
It’s as if as long the players can play (and entertain the crowd) they are Gods. But once these players needs the society or their community for help (psychological or physical) they turn their backs to them.
With this work I wanted to visualize both the good side of American football. The glamour, the fame, the athleticism, team spirit. But also the dark side that society would rather ignore: the many injuries, the brain damage.
To make this work I bought an authentic NFL helmet and destroyed one side of the helmet. I used hamers to smash holes in them, with fire and chainsaws I created scars and there are even some bullet holes in it as well.