Playing sports inherently comes with the risk of injury. Athletes suffer injuries such as pulled or strained muscles, tendons, and ligaments on a regular basis and are generally aware of the prevalence of these types of injuries in most sports. However, every once in a while, a sports injury occurs that causes the sports community, including players, fans, and other professionals, to question whether that sport is too dangerous. Furthermore, many commentators, players, and families of players may question whether more protective measures should be taken to avoid similar future injuries. Attorney Gabriel Levin of Levin and Zeiger had this to say about NFL injuries, “Many of these injuries are unfortunately unavoidable. Even with improved rules and equipment, the reality of the game is that on almost every play players will suffer an impact that could be compared to a car accident”.
The National Football League (NFL) has appeared in several headlines this year as a result of serious player injuries. First, the NFL settled a lawsuit earlier this year with 4500 former players regarding brain injuries. The lawsuit alleged that NFL officials and coaches hid the dangers and effects of multiple concussions and encouraged players to keep playing after a blow to the head instead of seeking proper medical attention. As a result, many former players suffer from chronic depression, early onset Alzheimer’s or dementia, and other mental disorders. Several players have been diagnosed post-mortem as suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a condition that appears to have lead to suicide in some of the players. The NFL settled with the players for $765 million and agreed to adjust procedures and education efforts regarding traumatic brain injuries.
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just last month, a tight end for the Green Bay Packers suffered a frightening spinal injury during a game. After a blow to the back of his neck, Jermichael Finley lay motionless on the field for several minutes until emergency medical crews transported him to the hospital. Luckily, Finley suffered only a spinal contusion and his paralysis was only temporary. However, he spent several days in the intensive care unit and faces months of recovery. It is unknown whether he will be able to return to the sport.
Many commentators have noted that while NFL players have gradually gotten bigger and stronger, the rules regarding tackles and the standard protective gear have mostly remained at status quo. Sports professionals have discussed whether the NFL should change the rules regarding physical contact and increase head and neck protections to avoid future life-altering traumatic brain injuries and spinal injuries among its players.
At the heart of the lawsuit was the players’ position that the NFL was aware of the risks these head injuries held for its players, but intentionally kept this information from them. Because the case has settled, the public will never have the opportunity to find out whether or not this was true.