Is football or auto racing more dangerous?

June, 3, 2014
Jun 3
2:45
PM ET
video
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Going at high speeds with the chance of a crash that could kill you instantaneously or know you will get hit over and over again, the constant pounding over a course of a career that could be debilitating.

Those are the options NASCAR driver Joey Logano kind of talked about Tuesday during Detroit Lions practice when he was asked about seeing NFL players collide with each other.

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He said he would rather be in a race car and that NASCAR is safer. At one point, that statement would have seemed almost laughable. NASCAR was a dangerous sport with its participants crashing into hard walls without accurate safety measures.

The death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. changed all that. NASCAR has increased safety measures from the cars driven to the construction of the walls and the HANS device for drivers. Considering the multitude of issues the NFL has had in recent years with former players suing for concussions and increased attention to CTE and brain injuries might have actually flipped that.

It is still an interesting discussion. On a day-to-day basis, NASCAR probably isn’t the safer sport. There have been more deaths in auto racing than there have been in the NFL, although that is always going to be the case in a sport where high speeds and heavy machinery are at the core of the sport.

But drivers can go through seasons -- multiple seasons -- without any major injuries. Without missing races or anything more than the bumps and bruises you would expect.

Yet in the NFL, there is a reason almost every player throws around the cliché that the league has a “100 percent injury rate.” With the NFL, and even college football, injuries are going to happen. A player who makes it through his career without an injury is either lying to himself or one of the rarities in the sport.

So in terms of living better when you are older, Joey Logano might actually be right. Driving around at breakneck speeds could actually be safer, in the long-term, than playing in the NFL.

But if they are able to make it through their career without significant injuries, the damage to NASCAR drivers in the long-term has not been statistically proven to be all that dramatic. Not like football, where too often old NFL players are walking with limps, struggling with memory or worse.

As Logano mentioned toward the end of the interview, comparing the two is a tough situation. One deals with just man and helmet, where the other melds man and machine together into one competitor.

The choice is which concerns someone more -- the short-term danger of auto racing or what could happen later on with football.

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter

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