When I decided to start working on an article about the Concussions in the NFL and litigation of former players against the NFL, I had one thought in mind. I was of the opinion the players had “assumed risk” of playing a violent game and really didn’t have a basis to attack the NFL with a lawsuit. Then I started doing a little bit of research.
It wasn’t until the results from Junior Seau came available and he was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE for short. He is the most well known former player to join the growing list of litigation against the NFL for head injuries over their careers. There are two things that are true no matter where your stance is on this issue. First thing is the quality of care for the players prior to the last decade was far lacking and there wasn’t any real knowledge of concussions. The other thing is football is just a violent game and there will be almost no way to protect players from suffering these injuries without getting rid of the violence.
But let’s all be honest, it is the violence that attracts fans to the game. The list of players who have filed suit against the NFL has now crested the 4,000 mark which is exactly 1/3rd of all former living players. After reading those figures maybe this isn’t so much an “assumed risk” problem anymore. Also, upon deeper research I can tell where the NFL has severely lacked in their care for the former players who gave so much to help make the game as popular as it is today. But let’s face it; nobody cares about the story of a lineman who played in 1967 as much as they care about hearing the Junior Seau story.
There was a story published last year about former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon’s girlfriend has to keep pictures and tell him the same story every day just so he can remember her. It is those stories that jump out to everyone, and brings a real face to this issue. The NFL has turned a blind eye on its former player’s problems and most of these guys didn’t make millions, so the chance they have the ability to afford their health care after their playing days is very slim.
Once again, I will say there is some “assumed risk” on the player’s part for playing such a violent game and there should be understanding of that by all parties. But the rich and greedy NFL needs to step up and help former players with their healthcare and make information more available to current players about future problems related to head injuries. Things are better now than they have ever been, because players are now tested for concussions and held out of the game if they fail. But the players need to understand the potential problems they may face later in life.
This is one issue where there is no right side, or right answer. Up until recently there was not enough information available to understand what would happen with repeated head injuries, heck until the middle of the 90’s you were at risk of losing your spot on the field if you went down with a head injury. The NFL can save itself a lot of money and huge public relations hit if they just step up and do more for the players from yester year.
You may not be able to prevent head injuries, but with proper education and planning, the league and players can get the help they will need going forward and may prevent more situations like Junior Seau’s where a life is tragically cut short due to lasting effects from head injuries.