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Football apparently was a lot different back in the old days. While searching for an obit I ran across this startling article:

Football claimed 15 lives during the 1916 season….Last year the total was 16, and in 1914 there were 15 deaths.(1)

Wouldn’t that make you think twice about becoming a football player?! Surely there weren’t that many teams, so the chances of you receiving a fatal injury seemed a little high?

College officials identified with the sport declare that not a single death occurred in any game in which the players were known to be physically as well as mentally trained for the test. Not a single life was lost, they say, in a game where a physician’s examination was demanded before the game….

In almost every case the victim did not suffer any length of time, some dying almost instantly and others a few days after the accident. Two of the players suffered broken necks, but a majority died from internal injuries.

Well, that certainly makes me feel better, knowing boys with internal injuries and broken necks did not suffer “any length of time.” One kid who died was only 14. How does a 14 year old end up on a college football team? Mercy.

Just out of curiosity, I checked to see how many teams played that year: 91(2). That perhaps makes the odds sound less intimidating to a young man who really wanted to play football?

What a different wild and wooley time it was in football almost a hundred years ago. I feel bad for the parents of the 14 year old. I’ve almost forgotten who’s obit I was searching for now.

(1)Deseret News (1916, December 2). Fifteen Lives Lost on the Gridiron in 1916 Football Season. The Deseret News [Salt Lake City, Utah], p. 7.
(2)1916 NCAA Division IA Football Power Ratings
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