What could possibly cause this? The answer is that American football is in very, very serious trouble.

2,450 players have now filed 89 concussion related law suits against the NFL and Riddle Athletics (helmet manufacturer) . All of the State cases are being referred to Federal Court.

I’m no expert on this topic. I follow (among others) ESPN and NFL Concussion Litigation. I have recently talked with four attorneys (none directly involved – all sue for a living). The cut to the chase question for the lawyers was:
“Will there be financial awards?”

Four out of four were quick to answer:
“Yes.”

This will make for an interesting legal case.

I suppose the starting point would be a contract [certainly at the Pro level, & probably at the College level too] The contract would obviously have to address the physicality of the sport and the potential for serious injuries/death from participation.

Without a doubt, the protective clothing/padding, contributes to the speed/strength of collisions/tackles. In rugby, where there is minimal/none of protective padding, the collisions are at lower speeds and impact power. There are still injuries/concussions, but they are I would guess less common frequent. That must therefore open another door as to prescribed/proscribed uses of the equipment.

Then there is the whole area of injury during the game, diagnosis, and management of the player. I read the book “Don’t worry it’s just a bruise” written by an NFL team doctor, and the level of drug useage etc employed to keep key players on the field, and the entire culture around that playing injured. Motorcycle racers ride injured all the time, break a few bones in an off during a practice round, back on for the race: this is not simply an NFL problem, you are dealing with tunnel vision athletes, and as such, very often they may require protecting from themselves, particularly in the case of a concussion where cognitive function will be impaired, and responsible, informed decisions cannot be made.

Ultimately, assuming that the draconian measure of an outright ban, or withdrawal of various participants does not end the game, insurance coverage would seem to be one avenue that could be explored. Of course the issue immediately that comes to mind would be “pre-existing conditions.” Where current players have been playing since grade school, all the way through to pro-level, the insurance risk becomes far higher, and of course, ultimately the insurance would have to commence at the start of the football playing career, in the PeeWee leagues, and be maintained continuously through the playing career.

Tail risk would be a major issue for the insurance companies, someone who played through say College, and developed problems say ten years later, attributable to football injuries. This would be a major stumbling block.

Of course, the game could retrogress as far as protective clothing is concerned. Make the padding far less protective, thus reducing the speed of collisions: remove helmets, return to the leather protective headgear, this will remove the current trend of tackling with the head as a weapon. All you lose are the slo-mo replays of hits that lift people into the air and popping off helmets etc.

Either way, it will be interesting to follow this case and see how it all plays out.

Advertisements