Battle brewing between NFL, NFLPA on career-ending concussions

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In a memo distributed today to all certified contract advisors, the NFLPA cites an inconsistency regarding the manner in which the league is dealing with concussions.

Though the NFL has been focusing more zealously than ever on the challenges faced by head injuries, the NFLPA contends that the league has been refusing to pay players who have been released after being advised by the team’s concussion specialist that “it was too dangerous for the player to ever play professional football again due to multiple short and long term risks of another concussion.”  Specifically, the union claims that, in several pending grievances filed after players were released and received no further salary following a warning from a concussion specialist that the player should not play football again, “the NFL has taken the position that once the player’s current symptoms dissipate and once his scores on cognitive tests have returned to baseline, he can be released with no obligation on the part of the club to pay his continued salary or Injury Protection payments.”

The NFLPA urges the agents to inform players of this tactic.  “They need to be made aware of the inconsistencies in the NFL’s public comments attempting to demonstrate real concern over health and safety issues relating to concussions and their actions trying to limit their liability arising from those concussions,” the memo from the NFLPA legal department states.

If accurate, it’s a valid point.  The league is now very concerned about concussions.  If a player is advised by a team concussion specialist that the risks of continuing to play football given a history of concussions are too great, then the player should be treated under league rules like any other player who has suffered a career-ending injury, even if the player otherwise is technically cleared to resume playing.

29 responses to “Battle brewing between NFL, NFLPA on career-ending concussions

  1. How can we take the players seriously when it comes to head injuries when they don’t do all they can to prevent them. We see guys who have helmets that don’t fit. Sorry but these helmets shouldn’t be flying of their head so easily and they also shouldn’t be able to put them on one handed without having to pull out on the ear holes. If the helmet doesn’t fit properly than it won’t do its job. Also we see all the time guys not buckling all the straps on the helmet and not using mouth pieces. If you don’t take all the proper precautions than these things will happen more often.

  2. Concussions are sort of par-for-the-course in football. Hard to say that players should be paid on an ongoing basis if they cant play any longer due to concussion (for their own safety).

  3. Who were the players that were told they need to stop playing football? None come to my mind, maybe just some backups and role players. It’d be a shame to see a high profile NFL athlete have their career put in jeopardy because of a concussion. Just look at Sidney Crosby.

  4. Its true, there isn’t enough being done for the guys who suffered these injuries after they retire. I also put some of this on teh players and the people that provide the equipment and fit teh equipment to the players. There are certain mouthpieces that carry anti-concussive qualities that all players on the field should be wearing. I think all sides play a role in this, instead of one vs the other.

  5. And yet Goodell and the owners still want to push for an 18-game regular season. Can’t claim you’re concerned about concussions and player health while also wanting 2 more regular season games that threaten further injury, guys.

  6. Not that I am defending the NFL, however there is a difference between choosing not to play and not being able to play.

    A career ending injury means that you know longer have the ability to play, not that you choose not to play.

    If you make the choice, it is the same as retiring. If it is a choice, then it isn’t a career ending injury.

    Then you take the players that are complaining that NFL is being too hard on people that are actually doing the damage on purpose. You can’t have your cake and eat it as well.

  7. Where would this end? Every player being cut would claim he had a concussion and that he was due compensation. At the end of every players career they all have had at least one concussion. I believe that the multi million dollar contract to play professional sports is the compensation up front. Players are well rewarded for the risk they take to play. It’s not like the league is hiding the risk and then under paying the player.

  8. The players act like they never knew there was an injury risk involved. While the league should treat these injuries as any other the players are not absolved from risk.

    For those that keep bringing up helmets: the helmets do the job they are intended to do. They are designed to prevent skull fractures, not concussions. Concussions are caused by a sudden stop while the brain still has momentum and slams into the inside of the skull (at least those attained with a helmet on). No helmet will prevent that. Putting padding on the outside of the helmet might distribute the force of impact better but it would likely lead to serious neck injuries as the friction of the hits increases.

    That said, players should be provided the best available equipment and they should forced to wear it or they don’t play.

  9. That’s the biggest issue I’ve been preaching for years. If you dont guarantee the contracts like other sports, you’ll get concussed players going back on the field trying to keep their jobs. On top of that, they get released without their money.

  10. The risk of another injury being bad for the player is very different from an injury that prevents a player from continuing to perform at a high level (i.e. – knee injury that limits quickness, etc.).

    Depending on what the language of “guaranteeing contracts for injury” says, there is the possibility that the league could be treating this one exactly right as the contracts are written.

    Actually, this seems like something that should be covered more directly under typical disability insurance, assuming that the NFL and/or NFLPA have it.

  11. Wouldn’t this fall under the NFLPA’s union dues ($10-15K per year) and the retirement account that the NFLPA has set-up for their players? Why should the NFL be on-the-hook for retired players, regardless of the circumstance forcing their retirement? Man-up NFLPA ~ start taking care of YOUR players.

  12. That’s right! We agreed to pay you a salary for doing your job, but while doing your job if you get injured we have no obligation to pay you the salary we BOTH agreed on. And, you all have the nerve to complain about and don’t understand why these guys hold out?

    You’re assuming that if a player does all of those things if won’t have a concussion.

  13. I think this is just about stupid. I would say that a concussion specialist would tell any player that’s had a concussion before that they should avoid having another concussion… so the NFL should continue to pay these guys? Imagine if every guy that had a concussion could just retire, blame it on the concussion, and continue to get paid… that’s what it sounds like the NFLPA is suggesting. I understand how important it is to work on the concussion policy but I don’t think the NFL should be as liable for these as the PA is wanting.

    Here’s something for players to think about when they’re signing their contracts… there’s a good likelihood you’ll get concussions playing football. If that trade off is unappealing to you then go get another job.

  14. Players don’t always wear knee pads or mouth guards. Playing football ahs a risk of concussion. Player is contracted for services. If services cannot be provided why do owners have to continue to pay? Not to be harsh but if I get a concussion at work, I woukld get disability pay for 2 years, then i am on my own.

  15. Now we know why players say they will lie about having a concussion and want to go back into the game after getting hit in the head. If they don’t play, they won’t get paid.

  16. Who are all these players? About the only one I heard about that was career threatening over the past year or so was Best. The Lions kept him on the team, and he is going to play next season.

    “even if the player otherwise is technically cleared to resume playing”…

    What about players that break a leg? If they don’t want to go through the pain again and thus decide to quit playing football, should they continue to be paid too?

  17. Usually I side with the players when it comes to owner vs player issues, just by the two faced hypocrisy of the majority of the owners. But here, I firmly believe the players have zero case and it isnt because the inherent risks and all those arguments which have something to be said for. It has everything to do with the complete split accountability by the players. You have the most recent lawsuit vs the NFL by Doug Stewart whining about about the NFL with holding info and the NFL isnt doing enough, etc. Then you have players like Rob Gronkowski who o. live television said even of he had a concussion he would fake it and numerous players have been on record as flubbing pre concussion testing to decieve medical experts. How does the NFLPA expect any kind of victory when the people they represent are completely divided?

  18. @KIR, I didn’t say that now did I. If they did all those things it would greatly reduce the chance of a concussion would happen however and that was the point all along.

  19. There are risks in every profession and the NFL isn’t any different. The players know this before they sign a contract.

  20. If the league is now “very concerned about concussions, as you state in this article, then they would do the one thing that would guarantee a steep drop off of concussions; getting rid of the hard plastic “weapon” that sits on the head of each player.

    Either no helmets, or soft helmets would eliminate the concussion problem. Think about it: why do NFL players need hard helmets? Are there any fast-moving hard objects flying round, like a hockey puck? No. The reason the NFL keeps the weapons that cause the concussions, is because it’s part of the “gladiator” type “look”. And the players use the weapon because it’s there.

    The NFL saying that it’s serious about the concussion problem is a lie. The solution is at hand, but they will not make use of it. Period.

  21. Oh well, these guys will have to get a resl job I guess. Too bad. Make it while you can, accidents happen in every walk of life and some believe it or not are MORE dangerous then football. Watch the news.

  22. olcap says:
    Jan 18, 2012 12:04 PM
    Either no helmets, or soft helmets would eliminate the concussion problem.
    I agree with your assertion that the helmets act as a weapon, at times, but i don’t believe removing them would really reduce the concussions by a lot. It might work with the linemen but most of the obvious concussions with the “skill” players are caused by the head snapping back and hitting the ground during a fall. Those hits would add a skull fracture to the concussion as well. The big hit concussions are the minority but they get the most attention due to the nature of the play.

  23. Javid Best comes to mind with this. That’s a guy who may have to be told to quit playing football or turn into Muhammad Ali.

    If the team physicians, or an agreed upon 3rd party physician, say that continueing to play NFL football will likely cause long term brain damage, the player should be able to receive the same compensation as any other player with a career ending injury.

  24. Develop better padding inside the helmets. Or create an entire new kind of helmet. Being able to work with something that small is an amazing opportunity to revolutionize all padded/preventive surfaces. Look how far we got with tempurpedic? Besides the internal padding that can be made into a gel or water molded with some kind chemistry, or any variation there of…the outside of the helmet or entire makeup could be of a different material. A completely softer helmet, they probably don’t need to be as hard as they are and end up being used as projectiles.

  25. @FinFan68

    I hadn’t really thought about getting taken down hard, and the head snapping backwards, as you pointed out. Definitely need some kind of head gear, but a soft shelled helmet, using our technological expertise, could be manufactured to cushion the head sufficiently to greatly reduce the incidence of concussions in that kind of situation. There is no need, though for the very hard helmet anymore. I doubt the NFL would go to the softer helmet though, even though all common sense would say that’s a path to reducing the concussions.

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