Sigrid Drefke, '23
The National Football League Players Association was created in 1956 to fight for the basic rights of players including getting safe equipment and clean jerseys. Since then, they have helped NFL players negotiate retirement benefits, aid community organizations, and have represented the players in hours. They have also written the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in conjunction with the NFL, which details how players will get 48% of revenue share, and other similar policies. They also more recently collaborated on amendments to the CBA surrounding changes due to COVID-19, such as 16-man practices and opt-outs of these practices for high-risk players. One of the most important and ongoing discussions in the NFL, however, has been about concussions.
Concussions have plagued the NFL and its players for years, and even with safer equipment and policies less conducive to concussions, hundreds of players suffer from concussions and their lasting effects every season. Oxford University has shown that concussions in former NFL players can even lead to depressive symptoms, along with numerous other mental side effects. Furthermore, one study that examined brains of deceased NFL players found that 99% of them had Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which can lead to many mental detriments and even death. Along with all the medical, emotional, and physical effects, concussions can also cause financial side effects. One study published by Sage Journals found that concussions can cause players to lose $1,300,00 per year. However, the NFL has attempted to take some action against concussions. The NFL and other organizations have investigated the main causes of concussions in football and attempted to implement solutions that minimize them. However, from 2002-2007 the majority of players who were concussed during football games returned to play in less than 7 days, despite average amount of time recovering from concussions being 10 days, with studies stating that concussed people should never return to sports or physical activity less than a week after obtaining the injury. Furthermore, studies have also shown that in NFL seasons from 1996-2001 and seasons from 2002-2007, despite the NFL initiating many new protocols, concussions rates were remarkably similar. Overall, concussions have and continue to affect players in all aspects of their lives despite the safety protocols implemented by the NFL.
Despite the devastating effects concussions have had on the NFL in the past, new studies and information is constantly being conducted and gathered. However, if the NFL continues to make changes to prevent concussions, they must get feedback and suggestions from the players, to prevent the resistance to their protocols that have occurred in the past, such as with their new helmet policy. Furthermore, the NFL must stop their public relations agenda and show football as it actually is: a violent game where 13% of players get concussions. The NFL can attempt to decrease the number of concussions that happen, but they are an inevitable part of the game.
Many players have repeatedly criticized the NFL’s policies, making comments like “If I was an offensive player, I would want to get hit right in my face because I signed up for football. I didn't sign up for basketball. I didn't sign up for soccer. I signed up for football.” and “Long term, [a decline in health] is the nature of the game. If you play football for a long time, you are going to have those things happen.” These players know the dangers that football entails and still decide to play, so decisions that the NFL makes might upset them. Therefore, however the NFL chooses to act to prevent these terrible injuries, whether through increased padding or changing the rules, they must consult with the players.
"Joint Statement on Behalf of MLB, MLS, NBA, NHL, NFL and WNBA." NFL, 4 Mar. 2021, www.nfl.com/playerhealthandsafety/resources/press-releases/joint-statement-on-behalf-of-mlb-mls-nba-nhl-nfl-and-wnba. Accessed 17 Mar. 2021.
Nyaz Didehbani, C. Munro Cullum, Sethesh Mansinghani, Heather Conover, John Hart, Jr, Depressive Symptoms and Concussions in Aging Retired NFL Players, Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, Volume 28, Issue 5, August 2013, Pages 418–424, https://doi.org/10.1093/arclin/act028
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Oritz, Aimee. "Learn the Symptoms in the Four Stages of CTE." The Boston Globe, 21 Sept. 2017, www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/09/21/symptoms-watch-for-four-stages-cte/Q1wniQOnQXH1bU8OibU3WJ/story.html. Accessed 17 Mar. 2021.
Resnick, Brian. "What a Lifetime of Playing Football Can Do to the Human Brain." Vox, 1 Feb. 2020, www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/2/2/16956440/super-bowl-2020-concussion-symptoms-cte-football-nfl-brain-damage-youth. Accessed 17 Mar. 2021.
Reyes, Lorenzo. "NFL Data Shows Concussions Increased Slightly in 2019, but League Touts 'New Benchmark.'" USA Today, 23 Jan. 2020, www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2020/01/23/nfl-concussions-increased-slightly-2019-season/4555094002/. Accessed 17 Mar. 2021.
Steifert, Kevin. "The NFL's latest safety measures face resistance from players." ESPN, 9 Aug. 2018, www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/24318483/how-nfl-latest-safety-measures-face-resistance-players-helmet-rule-concussions. Accessed 17 Mar. 2021.
"What to Expect After a Concussion." Beaumont, www.beaumont.org/conditions/what-to-expect#:~:text=Concussion%20recovery%20and%20treatment,week%20from%20sustaining%20the%20injury. Accessed 17 Mar. 2021.