Concussion problem has yet to scare away incoming rookies

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Recent medical discoveries regarding the long-term health risks arising from concussions have created, with the help of a Congressional hearing and the threat of lawsuits, an unprecedented sensitivity to the subject at the NFL level.  But as more and more former players claim via the courts system that the league concealed information regarding concussion risks, those who now have at their disposal everything they ever could or should know about the hazards aren’t putting down their helmets and walking away from the game.

Beginning Thursday, the NFL will determine the initial employment destinations of 253 eager applicants.  After that, at least 300 more who aren’t drafted will sign free-agent contracts.

None will say, “No thanks.  I’m not interested in playing pro football.  I’m concerned about concussions.”

There are several reasons for this.  First, plenty of men in their early 20s still inhabit that bubble of invincibility/immortality that, among other things, makes their car insurance rates way too high.  To them, the long-term future consists of the next month on the calendar.  Thoughts of health problems when they are “old” (i.e., 40) don’t creep into their consciousness.

Second, by the time football players have made it through the filter that separates high school and college football and are poised to pass through the even thicker wheat/chaff divide between college and pro, they have already made peace with the risks.  They’re football players, and football players sometimes get hurt.  (Yes, this cuts against the invincibility dynamic; but at that age the players who have been injured believe they can regenerate like Wolverine.)

Third, we remain a nation of risk-takers.  Many lines of work involve physicals risks equal to or greater than the risks of playing pro football, from firefighter to police officer to soldier to coal miner.  We also take plenty of risks when not getting paid, from sky diving to rock climbing to motorcycle riding to going for a jog on a road inhabited by large steel contraptions that roll by at high rates of speed.

The risk arising from pro football is, unlike many other riskier activities, offset by the compensation and the fame and the lifestyle.  Though, in time, parents may keep their children from playing youth football and, possibly, high school football, that will hardly choke off the supply of men 18 years of age and older who will willingly accept scholarships to play college football, the best of whom inevitably will be invited to play pro football.  And they will accept.

So while some in the media are enthralled with the prospect of predicting the demise of pro football due to the concussion problem, there will always be an eager supply of physically elite men who embrace the risk as part of the territory that goes with being a pro athlete.

Starting with the 253 who will be drafted this week, and continuing with the hundreds of others who will clamor for a shot at making a roster after they don’t hear their names called from Thursday though Saturday.

20 responses to “Concussion problem has yet to scare away incoming rookies

  1. Scare them? It’s like a bonus. After your playing days you can pretend you knew nothing about football being a contact sport … and you can sue the NFL. Hell, if you’re smart you’ll fake concussions every chance you get. Free money … hop on the cash cow and ride.

  2. This is a very well written article Mike. You made several good points and I wanted to expound on one. Young men typically don’t think about their current lifestyle affecting them later in life. That train of though is amplified in uber competitive athletes.

    I read an article written a few years after Ben Johnson was stripped of his Gold medal by testing positive for steroids. In the article an anonymous poll was taken among Olympic athletes. The question was if there was a pill that guaranteed a Gold medal,but eventually took 20 years off your life,would you still take it? More than 60% said yes. Scary thought isn’t it?

    Troy Aikman has a good point when he says the concussion issue might be the downfall of the NFL, but I don’t think it will ever happen. There will always be plenty of young men willing to risk their long term health to be multi-millionares in their 20’s.

  3. Why would it, the promise of big big money and fame over rides possible injury for anyone in football. No one wants any player to be hurt later in life but they picked this career at the age of ten for most, again for money and fame. These players will all join why….money and more money. Is hard to feel sorry or jump on the band wagon for ALL the cases…some have leget rights but no way all that is running to sign up.

  4. They may not be concerned now, but the personal injury lawyers are already noting their names because you can bet that they be ready to file in twenty years or so.

    There’s only one way to stop all this injury stuff now. No more tackle football, a game played by real men. To stop the injuries, we must stop kickoffs, and all hitting above the soles of the feet.

    Truly, it’s time for NFFL.*

    *National Flag Football League

  5. I played Rugby for 15 years, suffering two scull fractures and several concussions, all as an amateur for no pay! Were I able to risk all those concussions for hundreds of thousands or millions, You bet I would.

  6. I agree, but the problem is that the way thing are now a tiny group (relatively speaking) of litigants can bring big companies to their knees. I fear that far more than I fear young men not wanting to play the sport.

  7. These guys have known what they are in for. Otherwise they wouldn’t have been spending a lot of their time, since maybe around 7 years old, preparing to go to the NFL.

  8. chadmurdigan says:
    Apr 22, 2012 9:53 AM
    They may not be concerned now, but the personal injury lawyers are already noting their names because you can bet that they be ready to file in twenty years or so.

    There’s only one way to stop all this injury stuff now. No more tackle football, a game played by real men. To stop the injuries, we must stop kickoffs, and all hitting above the soles of the feet.

    Truly, it’s time for NFFL.*

    *National Flag Football League


    I know you were being facetious,but there really is a way to stop this madness. It’s for a jury to say sorry guys, you “assumed the risks” when you stepped onto that field in your youth.

    The only chance I see the former players winning a suit is to prove the NFL knowingly and willingly withheld evidence of the concussion dangers during their playing days. I don’t think that will happen because Medical science at the time didn’t have the knowledge it does now.

  9. Every current player and incoming rookie should be made to sign a waiver of responsibilty for the NFL and its teams and a promise not to sue.

    Football is dangerous, so is motorcycle racing, mountain climbing, sky diving, coal mining, firefighting and skiing. They knew the risks , dont play if you wont accept the consequences.

    The league is turning into some sort of flag fooball, two handedtouch , tackle hybrid because of the scummy lawyers and opportunist money hungry mediocre 3 year and out former players that blew any money they made looking to make a quick buck.

  10. You play for the love of the game. The physical issues are inherit and well publicized. The NFL/NFLPA should be taking care of the former players health issues with the billions they have rolling in annually. Congress would be better served looking into the real issue of the health cost in taking care of those brave men and women serving in the military who are willing to give the ultimate sacrifice in life in a split second. The NFL is entertainment and a luxury that we all enjoy as fans and some don’t, given. But we can all agree that we enjoy the freedom to watch or not to watch football provided by these brave souls. Waivers are given in the military, so why not in the NFL, when injuries are inherit. Establish a clause, that the NFL take care of those who make them their billions for life with their health issues and establish a financial safety net through the NFLPA. Greed isn’t always good.

  11. I wonder how many current NFL players would take less money to get a 100% guarantee they would never get a concussion while playing professional football, such as changing the rules to flag football? I don’t think any would do this!

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