Football Concussions, the next Big Thing?

As I understand later this year in Philadelphia a federal class suit will address brain injuries in football.

Football teams are big companies. The NFL acts as a cartel. Add in youth football programs, which at some high schools and colleges bill themselves as money-making operations with unpaid workers.

We would have to agree, I suppose that at some point (2010? 2000? 1990? 1980?) Big Football knew that their game was injuring the workers. This is a game that was willing to change the rules to protect quarterbacks. But Big Football did nothing (as I understand it). The continued to make money by injuring the workers.

On the other hand, the players are very well paid, at least at the top level. Further, I suppose you could say the player knew what the game involved.

**How should the court rule? **Is Football a conspiracy as Big Tobacco is? Or perhaps the injured players have no room to complain?

It’s the current Big Thing.

The really big issue is not going to be the NFL; they have deep pockets to defend themselves, the players are all consenting adults arguably well aware of the risks, and it’s going to be hard to prove they were negligent w/r/t concussions.

At the high school and lower levels, the money isn’t there, and you’re already have anecdotal stories of fathers – not mothers, fathers – steering their sons away from the game because of the concussion risks.

I think this scenario is very, very possible:

If a school board even suspects they are causing injury to the students, it stands to reason some fancy lawyer is going to make them pay without regards to waivers signed by parents. I do not see how the sport can’t be doomed, starting at the bottom and working its way up.

My kids school is concussion nuts right now.

My daughter does not play football. In fact, she’s the kid who gets hit on the head with the volleyball during gym class because she - well, she’s that kid. And when she does, I have to pick her up from school, keep an eye on her, and am told it might be best (but its my decision) to take her to the emergency room and make sure there is no concussion. Three times last year (volleyball, elbow to the head during floor hockey, soccer).

It will die from the bottom up - schools don’t have funding to fend off lawsuits. There may be more leagues outside of the school distract, which can fold and reform, to keep the kids playing, but I don’t suspect our middle school will field a team in five years, and that will starve off the high school team.

Which around here is happening anyway - the kids start outside of the school district in elementary school, long before the school district offers sports. The season overlaps, and the boys who have been playing traveling football still do. The school teams aren’t as good as the club teams.

How could the local “Pop Warner” people keep going as insurance rates go up?

You could make a case that in this particular sport, technology has hurt.
Back when people were wearing leather helmets, they didn’t lead with their head.
You don’t hear about class action lawsuits in Rugby…

As a matter of public policy, courts likely to enforce properly drafted releases for amateur athletic participation on the grounds that not doing so would shut down many such programs.

When they don’t, it’s generally because:

  1. The release or accompanying documentation did not accurately describe the risks involved;
  2. There was no opportunity for the releasor to study it beforehand or consult with counsel (as in, you show up for a marathon and they give you the waiver form ten minutes before the race starts);
  3. The waiver did not apply to the risk in question (you waived liability before participating in a football game, and got shot by a spectator);
  4. The waiver was not voluntary (a student fails PE if he doesn’t run around the track, and has to sign a waiver before running); or,
  5. The release was signed by a parent on behalf of a minor. In a number of states, a parent cannot waive a child’s cause of action, only their own on behalf of the child.

Sure you do. Kyriazis v. University of West Virginia, 450 S.E.2d 649 (W. Va. 1994).

I’ve read about this before, that helmets and padding have made football more dangerous rather than less.

Is there any possibility of football remaining popular if head-strikes are banned?

As this goes to court, I think what’s going to play out is the visceral difference between musculoskeletal injuries and brain injuries. I expect that players would simply have to live with their injuries, bad knees, backs, walk with a cane or need even a wheelchair in later life. I don’t think people are going to feel the same way about brain injury, where a 50 year old man can’t remember his grandchildren’s names. Our brains are what fundamentally make us who we are, it’s what separates us from animals, what allows us to take part in our society, take that away, and you are dehumanized.

The last thing Football is going to want is a parade of men with broken brains getting on the stand to prove how football has taken away their ability to simply be people.

Keep in mind that people were dying on a regular basis in the earliest days of football, to the point where it was almost banned. The safety gear and rule changes back in the early 1900’s were directly to address this problem.

Of course, before the technology football was popular. Even with the advent of rules favoring less contact (for QB’s currently and receivers received some benefit as well)
I think people like violence but it certainly is tempered a bit by exactly ‘how much’ they allow.

Look at MMA fighting, it has grown in popularity since they implemented rules regarding violence. It started as a ‘no rules’ type of event and no one watched and worse, they couldn’t get solid sponsorship.

They won’t have to. There is going to be clear precedent established at the higher levels that makes it clear that such lawsuits are frivolous. More importantly, the NFL certainly has a stake in such cases, and is not going to let case law build up at lower levels that could later be used against them.

Plus, injury cases would stand even less of a chance towards the bottom because the types of injuries people are upset about are cumulative injuries that happen over time. This is just the latest fad, replacing suing fast food companies for making you fat. I don’t say that to minimize the injuries people are suffering, but it’s pretty obvious that repeatably being tacked to the ground is gonna have deleterious heath consequences. Yes, the effect of concussions is fairly new, but I think people know football is generally dangerous considering people die playing football every year.

As someone already mentioned, back in the early 20th century football was a much more dangerous sport. Aside from helmets and pads another big change has been in the athletes themselves. The average weight of an NFL lineman is over 300 pounds and he’s no couch potato. They move quickly, are very strong and on almost every single play they slam into the guy in front of them as hard as they can. According to one website, the average NFL lineman is 119 pounds heavier than his counterpart from a century ago. I can’t help but think part of the problem is simply the size and strength of modern players compared

We’ve talked a lot about concussions in this thread but the problem goes beyond that. Hasn’t there been a lot of talk that many of the people from the NFL with Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) didn’t suffer from repeated concussions during their career? That repeated head trauma that didn’t result in concussions can lead to CTE?

I only played football through high school and while I never worried about injuries I certainly knew they were a possibility. Most of those injuries were limited to things like broken bones, concussions, torn ligaments, and minor contusions & lacerations. It never ever occurred to me that being tacked to the ground on multiple occasinos would have any deleterious health consequences. I got tacked and knocked around quite a bit over a period of five years and was fine. So no, it’s not obvious.

This NFL class action suit is, at least partly, the result of former players not having any money left. Where is the outcry from the current players? Rather than support the arguments of the former players, they mostly complain about rules changes to make the game safer and admit to hiding injuries so that they could keep playing. I guarantee some of those former players trying to get money from the NFL also hid injuries to stay on the field and if they ever admit to it, their case is out the window. They had a choice to play football or not.

As for youth football, yes I can see the concussion craze putting the sport’s popularity on a slight decline for kids.

In what sense are they frivolous? Fast food joints publish nutritional information. Amateur sports leagues don’t publicize injury statistics.

And, thus … ?

Those injuries are deleterious heath consequences. Some are limited in their duration (eg. broken bones), but others can last far longer (eg. concussions, torn ligaments). That was known in large part even before these recent studies. The term, “punch drunk” has been around for a while. People, at least anecdotally, have known getting hit in the head for a living, or as recreation, is generally not good.

Yeah. The current thinking is that repeated sub-concussive impacts can have a cumulative effect. That said, one problem is, AFAIK, these injuries are only able to be conclusively diagnosed by studying actual brain tissue after death. Since you won’t likely see kids exhibiting symptoms, let alone dying from these things, it will likely be hard to win a case from that angle against a pop warner league or a high school.

Well, now they publish stats, and even so, they are often not easy to find in many localities. Second, pop warner, and most leagues (AFAICT) issue injury stats based on surveys. That said, it’s hard for a league to publish accurate results given that they may not even know of injuries. It’s not like testing the fat content of a burger, it’s closer to tracking how much weight gain can be attributed to people eating burgers.

I have long thought it would be a good idea for all ex-NFL players to donate their brains to science. I bet a lot of good information would come from that.

The issue is, I think, if the employer took all reasonable steps to protect the workers. All it takes is a couple of e-mails showing someone knew and did nothing to bring the whole thing down.