Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew recently told the Associated Press that he’d hide a concussion in order to keep playing. Even more recently, he has blamed the league’s relatively new sensitivity to concussions on the latest trend in litigation.
“I’ve had concussions before, and it wasn’t this big deal about concussions,” Jones-Drew said Wednesday, according to the AP. “The only reason they’re making a big deal about concussions right now is because the league is getting sued over it. Before this, you never heard about it. A couple of years ago, you didn’t hear anything about it.”
He’s right, but the catalyst for change wasn’t litigation. It was the federal government.
In October 2009, Congress held a hearing regarding the issue of concussions in football. Not long after that, the NFL made dramatic changes to its procedures relating to head trauma. Those changes continue, with the league now focusing on changes to the manner in which concussions are diagnosed during games. Along the way, players who played before the changes were made have filed suit, claiming that the league concealed the risks and/or failed to properly protect the players.
Still, Jones-Drew sees the entire issue as an “occupational hazard.”
And so, as the league deals with the challenge of concussions and potential future lawsuits, the NFL should consider spelling out all of the concussion-related risks and getting players to acknowledge that they understand and accept those risks before they ever sign an NFL contract.
Few will choose not to sign. Indeed, we’re still not aware of a single NFL player who has walked away from the game due to the fear of the possible consequences of concussions.
Employees take far worse risks — for far less money — in many different lines of work, from coal mining to law enforcement to the military. If anything, the NFL has failed in the past to ensure that the players fully and completely understood those risks.
Even if they did, most if not all of the players would have kept on playing.