NFL: Not Over Yet

NFL: Not Over Yet

The big game may be over, but things are just starting to heat up for the National Football League. Recently, the issue of head trauma within the game and their long-term repercussions has been front and center in and out of the sporting world.

A federal judge has agreed to hear oral arguments requesting to throw out the lawsuits of thousands of former NFL players who suffered concussions on the field. The hearing is scheduled for April 9.

Currently, more than 3,500 players in more than 100 different suits have been brought against the NFL. The underlying question of whether or not the league was aware of the risks posed by head injuries.

We found this timeline from The Atlantic a compelling read, which gives specific examples of the NFL’s knowledge of (or disregard of) the severity of head injuries. Here are a few points we found particularly interesting:

1994 – The NFL establishes the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury committee. Rheumatologist Elliot Pellman is installed as its chair. “Concussions are part of the profession, an occupational risk,” rheumatologist Pellman tells Sports Illustrated. He says that a football player is “like a steelworker who goes up 100 stories, or a soldier.”

1997 – The American Academy of Neurology establishes guidelines for concussed athletes returning to play. The guidelines recommend holding athletes who suffer a Grade 3 concussion (loss of consciousness) be taken “withheld from play until asymptomatic for 1 week at rest and with exertion.”

2000 – The NFL rejects these guidelines. ”We don’t know whether being knocked out briefly is any more dangerous than having amnesia and not being knocked out,” says neurologist Mark R. Lovell. ”We see people all the time that get knocked out briefly and have no symptoms,” he added. ”Others get elbowed, go back to the bench and say, ‘Where am I?’ ”

2005 – In June, former Pittsburgh Steelers guard Terry Long commits suicide by drinking antifreeze. Neuropathologist Bennet Omalu later examines Long’s brain and concludes he suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

2009 – NFL spokesman Greg Aiello acknowledges, “It’s quite obvious from the medical research that’s been done that concussions can lead to long-term problems,”

2009 – The NFL begins to put up posters in locker rooms that state, in part, “Concussions and conditions resulting from repeated brain injury can change your life and your family’s life forever.”

2010 – In a display of seriousness over player safety, Steelers linebacker James Harrison is fined $75,000 for his hit on Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi in an October game. Somewhat undercutting this display, the NFL sells pictures of the hit on its website.

We’re interested to see how this continues to play out. What are your feelings on the NFL’s responsibility/negligence?