Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's much more than a headache.

Concussion. It is a term that we have been hearing all over Sports Center for the past two years, but it has been a serious issue for many years.  In an age when every athlete is taught to be a tough juggernaut, it is no wonder why more and more are facing serious medical problems in sports, and in particular football.  Recently, I read this article about the NFL’s mishandling of evidence found in the testing of helmets and concussions. This is the second biggest tort in sports recently and it is linked to the biggest tort in the history of sports, in my opinion of course. 

The severity of concussions in football was brought to the attention of the American public and needless to say there was outrage.  As a result the NFL started a testing program of football helmets and concussions, but the testing was debased.  There was a definite conflict of interest in the matter and consequently the members of the research group resigned “after strong criticism of their conduct from the House Judiciary Committee and outside medical experts”.   Later in the year, a new committee was appointed and they accused a fellow doctor of minimizing evidence of the dangers of football concussions.  In addition, the new committee said that the old compromised data from the previous studies would not be used.

What happened? The NFL used the compromised data anyway.  Based on those studies, 3 of 16 helmets performed best in testing.  This leads the public to believe that these helmets are effective in concussion prevention, but they are not.   

Yet, this is not the first time that the NFL has covered up serious health information.  A few years ago Blood Equity was released, it is a documentary with interviews from former Hall of Fame NFL players.  This is not a film about the glory days though, it is about the reality of football players after they retire.  Check out this clip from Blood Equity.

The NFLPA refusing to help former players in my opinion is the biggest tort in the history of sports.  These men put their bodies and souls into the game for years and have to beg for assistance, just to be turned away after retirement.  Other leagues like the MLB, NHL, and NBA guarantee disability, pensions, and medical care, but the NFL and NFLPA do not.  

Since the release of the film, there has been talk of a class action lawsuit by former players.  The lawsuit would demand compensation for the injuries they received while playing.  The problem with this is 1) finding a law firm that is willing to take on the NFL and has the financial ability to do so and 2) finding former players that are not afraid to step up and testify against the NFL.  The only advantage the retired players have is the public, hopefully dragging the name of the NFL and NFLPA through the mud will get someone's attention, other than mine.

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