Player safety has always been a big worry in football. Due to the physicality of the sport, there are often injuries and big hits throughout the duration of a game. This hasn’t derailed the popularity of the sport in America, however. 120.8 million people tuned into last year’s dramatic Super Bowl. The NFL has tried to implement various strategies throughout the last few years to combat the potential risk of serious injuries, particularly concussions and avoid making sporting headlines for the wrong reasons. Twitter has become the "go to" place for sports fans to get sports updates directly from players, Niles Paul spoke of his recent injury via twitter and it reminds us just how gruesome this sport really is.
The NFL has introduced the Concussion Settlement to compensate players who have been severely affected by head injuries but the bill has been put on hold for the time being.
There have been a number of concussion incidents in the NFL in the past few years. Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor collided with San Francisco’s Vernon Davis during a game in 2012 – an incident that caused Davis to miss multiple matches due to the NFL’s concussion protocol. Just last season, Wes Welker suffered a major concussion in preseason and was ruled out for a number of games too. The implications in the short-term don’t seem severe but the long-term health effects can be.
In theory, the Concussion Settlement is designed to provide closure and support to those players and the families who have been affected by concussion injuries while playing in the NFL. However, the limited careers that these players have means that it is vital for NFL stars to remain healthy for as long as possible and concussions are playing an increasing role in shortening careers. In fact, players have recently retired due to the worry of long-term health impacts from concussion-related injuries.
One of the controversial topics on the settlement was the exclusion of CTE diagnoses. CTE is chronic traumatic encephalopathy and over 50 football players have been diagnosed with the illness. Under the current rules and regulations of the NFL’s concussion settlement, players who suffer from neurocognitive impairments, such as a decline in memory and processing speed of the brain, will be eligible for financial awards of up to $3 million. Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s sufferers can receive $3.5 million, while ALS victims can receive up to $5 million. However, the settlement says that families of players with CTE will be eligible for up to $4 million but only if the player has passed away prior to the final approval date of the settlement.
In fact, some have even suggested that the NFL could ban safety helmets one day as they are giving players a false sense of security. While the number of concussions throughout the 2014 season went down by approximately 25 percent, the issue remains a key worry for the league and all of the players.
Many NFL players are now becoming more concerned about knee injuries as these type of knocks are the ones that tend to end careers while concussions keep people out for a short period of time. However, we now know that these concussion injuries are having much greater implications on long-term health and they must be limited at all costs. The settlement marks an important milestone, but it’s unlikely that this will be the end of the matter as administrators look for ways to cut out concussions entirely and move on to other areas of concern when it comes to injuries in the NFL.