Image by ZUMA Press

A lot of HSM watch American football. A lot more still may even play the sport. At its most competitive levels — collegiate and professional — it sees such tremendous nationwide popularity (and corporate profit) that it is no stretch to call it an American institution.

But it is an innately insensitive sport. At its core is perpetuated aggression highlighted by verbal intimidation and high impact collisions (with ever present severe injury risk) on which it has thrived for several decades. It comes just about as close as it can get to being the athletic symbol of Western masculinity in the United States. The ancient saying that goes, “there’s no crying in baseball” should really be updated to say football.

At the lower levels, trying out for the football team in school is a rite of passage for adolescent boys. Those who make the team instantly have a title in which to flaunt as a beacon of attractiveness to their impressionable female classmates and a jacket of physical and emotional dominance over those boys who were cut or those who didn’t try out at all (if I was American I would be in the latter group). In the severely insular and image conscious environment that is the student body in the average American high school, there is implicit and sometimes not so implicit administrative prioritization of football. This represents the crown jewel in the laundry list of challenges to the young highly sensitive American male’s sense of self (and self-esteem). Teenage years are already a legendary period of hormonal instability for both genders, sensitive or not.

For a while now however, there has been a storm brewing between those in football, American media and the populace around the chronic, irrefutable head trauma and subsequent brain injury risks at the highest levels of the sport. The National Football League (NFL), wherein an “average” team is worth over $1 Billion USD, is being sued in federal court by more than 4,000 former players over negligence in recognizing and accommodating such significant head injury risks (notably, concussions which can lead to early onset degenerative brain disease). Starting with the 2013 season, independent neurosurgeons will be stationed at the sidelines of every game. Ten years ago, or even five years ago, this would have been the definition of inconceivable. If the most popular sport in American by a wide margin is at the very least forced to consider, if not permanently implement sweeping changes in the name of player safety, how does this parallel with the current ignorance — and where applicable, intolerance – of highly sensitive heterosexual men in Western society?

Every football player of every age gives consent to risk injury to play the sport. But, while they have been conditioned that it is ok to get injured and even admit to many a different injury, short of actually being and staying knocked out it’s not ok to stay on the sidelines with an “invisible head injury” (concussion). Even the helmets used at the highest levels which feature the latest safety technology are no match for the physics of a brain floating in fluid being rapidly decelerated against the wall of the skull. While the brain may be the most important organ in the body alongside the heart, for too long it has simply been unbecoming to not just shake off “the stars” and quickly line up for the next play. Perhaps it’s not so much uneasiness, but I do get the sense there has now been a non-returnable wrench thrown into what used to be a well-oiled machine of football based masculinity certification. A line of dominoes has been set up and the US federal court ruling on the players’ lawsuit is the finger that may tip the first domino of consequences for all levels of the sport. Time will tell if the nation is willing to be honest with itself regarding the real danger that the higher levels of the sport pose to a player’s quality of life down the road.

Regardless of the state of American football a few years from now, the mere fact that this pillar of Americana has been dragged mostly kicking and screaming into systematic evaluation inspires me to continuing advocating for all the HSM. Heightened awareness of head injury risk exposure in football means there is a widening crack Fortress Football’s silent wall of “head injuries are for sissies” policy. This is to say nothing of other sports like professional hockey which have recently been dealing with their own concussion related media storms.

That said, I won’t be recommending that every HSM out there suddenly become immersed in football or other hard contact sports for the sake of “proving themselves.”

But I will urge you to use this news as motivation to find your niche as a highly sensitive man knowing that this insensitively dominated reality you’re living is very capable of turning on itself in the name of a legitimate cause. 

-Stevie