If you are going into professional athletics, you should be more than aware ahead of time that your career is likely to end when your body starts to give out on you. Regardless of the sport, professional athletes push themselves well beyond what any reasonable person should expect, which often leads to debilitating conditions down the road. While this might be a part of the game, the NFL has previously denied any direct connection between playing and brain injuries. In a recent affirmation, it appears the League is willing to admit that football really does cause brain injuries.
During a roundtable discussion put on by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy and Commerce in March, the Senior Vice President for Health and Safety of the NFL, Jeff Miller, was asked whether he believed there was a link between football and certain neurodegenerative diseases. He responded with a clear, “The answer to that question is certainly yes.” Referring to research done by Dr. Ann McKee about brain disease, he admits there is little debate about whether there is a link between football and this sort of brain injury. At the same time, he also suggested what mattered most was not about the link, but rather where things would go from there. Shortly after these discussions, the NFL confirmed that his statements represented the NFL’s stance on the matter.
Really, it shouldn’t take a doctor or even any amount of research to realize football can lead to this sort of brain damage. After all, the sport consists of a bunch of large men wearing helmets and heavy pads, running across a field and working to tackle whoever has the ball. Yes, there is much more to the game than this, but in essence the foundation of the game requires that players get hit pretty hard. If you are going to get tossed around in the fashion, risking a brain injury is just part of the job.
Admitting that football can cause brain injuries has led many to question how the NFL plans to rectify this situation. Currently, there is a settlement deal in the works where the League would offer payments for those diseased members who suffered from brain injury as a result of their time in the NFL as well as those current players who might be diagnosed with one of the associated brain diseases. Still, many say this settlement is simply not enough to right the wrongs that have occurred.
On the other hand, fans of the sport likely hold a much more limited view on the subject. Specifically, they realize that these players are getting paid exorbitant sums of money and injury is simply part of the game. They sign up with the realization that they are going to get 10-20 years in the league and then retire knowing they are likely to suffer from some variety of health problems. More simply, they should know the risk, should asking for settlements like this be considered completely absurd?