What’s the Matter with… the NFL?

(Another guest post from our very own Kazzy!)

(In a slight departure from the format of my first two posts, this one is going to be more of a bleg and less of a pontification.  This is being done for two primary reasons: Iam far from an expert on the legal, medical, and ethical issues at play here and realize I have much more to learn about this topic from the folks here than to offer of myself; second, I’m hoping to generate more conversation within thecomments.  The first post surpassed 80 comments which was remarkable but the topic and length of the second one generated far less.  Enjoy!)

Junior Seau, a standout NFL linebacker for 20 years, died lastweek, with signs pointing to the death being a suicide. Much of the conversation surrounding this tragedy has focused on the emerging link between playing football, head trauma, and diminished quality of life among former players (including but not limited to suicide, dementia, chronic physical pain,and depression).  Seau is not the first former player to take his life, though is the most prolific and high profile, bringing a much greater deal of attention than any of the prior cases.

My blegs are as follows:

For the medical professionals/experts amongst us, how confident are you that the link between football and the myriad of physical and emotional issues being ascribed to it is real? How much is concern mongering and/or sanctimony?  What suggestions would you make to make the game safer?  Would you let your child play?

For the legal professionals/experts amongst us, whether or not the link is real, what are the implications for the future of the NFL?  Given that SOP for a long time was to shame guys into playing through the types of injuries that are now being scrutinized,what legal accountability does the NFL have to former players?  Are the NFL or its teams/coaches at risk in either criminal or civil court?

And to the ethical professionals/experts amongst us (which I consider to be everyone here!), what does all of this mean?  What are our obligations as fans?  What are the obligations of the league and teams?  What responsibility falls to the players?  Does any of this impact your enjoyment of the game?  Will you enjoy the game less if greater measures are taken to ensure player safety?


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com


  1. I am not a doctor, but I do fell playing is causing lasting injuries. Still, I think these player know this. How can two people run head long into each other and not cause some damage? Play the game at your own risk.

    I would let me son play football once he is old enough.

    • The “informed consent” argument is a compelling one. Where I am given pause is the consideration of players from further back, when less was known about the potential for long-term damage and/or players were instructed to keep on playing by team personnel with obvious conflicts of interest. The NFL’s (very recent) move to independent neurologists on the sidelines was a nice step but was too little, too late for many guys.

      I considered titling this post “What’s the matter with… some of the world’s biggest, strongest, and fastest athletes colliding into one another at full speed or 60 minutes at a time?” but figured the answer was too obvious…

      • I’m not sure the issue can be addressed. The NFL is taking concussions seriously now, but it’s starting to look like the accumulation of low-level hits over a decade or more of play is just as serious a problem. And there’s currently no way to detect the effect of this except as part of an autopsy. I can picture that, with advanced enough medical science, it would be possible to tell a player “You’ve reached your threshold for brain trauma. You need to retire for at least a year, and after that we can evaluate whether you’ve healed enough for reinstatement”, but that’s not going to happen quickly enough to save the NFL.

        • What if it was determined that the human body can withstand regular physical contact within a certain threshold, but that threshold has been surpassed. The only way to make football “safe” is to institute size/weight limits on players. Would you still watch, knowing that you weren’t watching the best of the best?

          • I think it’s more likely that time limits would be instituted rather than size limits. No player can play for more than a half, and so on.

            A whole lot of the hits involved are not from games, though. Football games are famously short on actual action. It’s the five days of full-contact practice leading up to the games that are the problem. You could mitigate a whole lot of damage simply by changing the way practices are held. It would hurt game-performance, particularly as it relates to tackles, but I think the game would soldier on.

          • Would you still watch? Would you pay money to see the Jim Sorgis (Sorgies?) of the world play half the game?

          • I’m not sure that’s the right question. I expect that if there were a weight limit of, say, 280 for offensive lineman, most of the same guys who play at 350 today could adjust their food/exercise/pharmaceuticals regimens to meet that, and we could easily ignore the fact that techniques exist to make them bigger.

          • Good point. People still watch Floyd Mayweather even though he’s not a super heavyweight. There are probably a handful of guys who would not be able to make weight, or at least not make weight at a particular position and still be effective, but they’d be few and far between.

          • Sure, I’d still watch. Absolute quality of play is not actually central. The second string of the NFL is still better than college, and people still watch college. The loyalty tends to be towards institutions (professional franchises and colleges) rather than the absolute quality of its players. The average second-string NFL player is really quite good. They just aren’t as good when they have to play against the other team’s first string. Take out the other team’s first string and you still end up with a higher level of play than at the college level. Most sports accept player substitutions as a way of life. Even football has moved more in this direction at the college level.

          • I’m probably a bit of an outlier than in that I struggle to get really into games with lackluster quality of play. I don’t really follow college sports. Besides difficulty following the constant turnover and the number of teams/games, I just see a lot of bad play out there. (This is also rooted in the fact that I grew up just outside NYC, where pro sports rule and there is a real dearth of local college powerhouses.) It is the same reason I don’t watch the WNBA or high school basketball or the CFL… I personally like seeing the best of the best. I even struggle to watch regular season games between shitty teams… with the exception of the NFL, I tend to only watch games that involve either my favorite teams or good-to-great teams. Not sure what that makes me… an elitist? Some sort of fair-weather fan? I hope, and believe, I am the exception in this regard.
            Otherwise, I agree wholly with your analysis. Last year’s Colts team would have wiped the floor with Alabama and LSU combined.

          • I’m with Will on this. The team serves as a symbolic representation of a community and an element of individual identity. If the linebackers and tackles were a little less beefy that would be just fine; in fact, I might like to see strength, speed, and talent exceed bulk and the occasional freak show comment as we watch 400-pound guys ooze out of their armor.

          • Well put, Burt. My assumption that smaller = worse is off base. The game might very well be a BETTER product with smaller guys, and not just because they won’t be dying left and right. When you look at the size and speed of guys today compared to yesteryear, it’s downright scary. We have linebackers who are bigger than the big guys and faster than the fast guys of the 70’s. Ray Lewis should not exist.

          • My alma mater just graduated a wide receiver who was absolutely amazing. Fast as lightning and receiver of unbelievable catches. He got picked up by an NFL team, but it’s unlikely that he will actually play. Why? He’s 5’9″. That’s it. With the paucity of teams and players, you can afford to discriminate on that basis alone.

          • Kazzy, where did you grow up? I was born and raised on Lawn Guyland.

          • Rose-

            Flip side of the Island. Bergen County, NJ. Live two counties north of that now in the OC.

          • Neat! Husband is from Essex. When he first visited my hometown, he was blown away that people really talked like that….

        • “You’ve reached your threshold for brain trauma. ”

          I wouldn’t be surprise if it’s something like radiation – there’s a rising statistical chance of an adverse health consequence with increased chronic exposure, but no hard and fast line below the one that causes acute symptoms.

    • “I would let me son play football once he is old enough.”

      Interestingly (to me at least) (noted former WaPo columnist) Michael Wilbon has said repeatedly on PTI and probably other forums that he will *not* allow his son to play football.

  2. “What are the implications for the future of the NFL?”

    The NFL, as we know it, will not exist within 20 years.

      • I’m against Will on this. I think that 32 teams is about the upper limit of what can feasibly be done without diluting the quality of product. I also think that an increase in the quantity of product available would devalue that product. MLB represents the other extreme — if you miss one of 162 games, even of your own favorite team, that’s really not a big deal. But for an NFL fan, missing one of your own team’s 16 regular season games is a significant lacuna in your experience of the season.

        • “But for an NFL fan, missing one of your own team’s 16 regular season games is a significant lacuna in your experience of the season.”
          My wife, who gets more things about sports than most women I know, still doesn’t understand this. My left thumb for an essay that effectively conveys this sentiment to her!

          • Baby, it’s like reading “Finger-Lickin’ Fifteen” without reading “Fearless Fourteen”, you feel me?

          • I know what every single one of those words means in isolation, but damned if I have any idea what that sentence is supposed to say. Is that English?

          • They’re Janet Evanovich books. From what I understand, chicks read them the way that dudes watch football. As such, even the ones who don’t make a habit of it, know how to talk about it.

          • This is what happens when we teach girls to read and write…

        • Without getting too deep into the weeds and earning yet more enmity from Patrick, as far as the number of teams go, there is an enormous overcapacity of talent. Every year, countless players who are thrilling to watch don’t actually get to play in the NFL. The player-to-population ratio is actually quite low compared to times past.

          • T-Mobil presents: the 2021 NFC Wildcard Game, the Birmingham (Alabama) Cavaliers + 2 1/2 points at the Birmingham (UK) Barons.

            … Yeah, I guess that could be okay.

          • And their cheerleading squad, the Birmingham Birminghams.

  3. I am still working my way through a lot of these questions (and I keep watching for the same reason I keep eating meat – I am simply ignoring some of the rather obvious ethical conclusions), but I’ll offer this: I will definitely not allow my kids to play football.

    • Do you have kids, Ryan? I’m guessing you don’t since you just got married, but that might be a bit presumptuous. I am still in the realm of dealing with my “hypothetical” kids… all my “real life” kids belong to someone else and are too young to play football. Which makes it really hard for me to offer an answer that I can defend with much vigor.

      • No, none yet, although there are sure to be some coming along within in the next couple years. Their future mother and I are pretty settled on which sports they’ll play (soccer, because she loves it, and baseball, because I love actual sports) and which they won’t (football, despite my love and her like of it).

        • What if they hate soccer and baseball and love archery and tennis?

          • Fair enough. Our first pass will be soccer and baseball, with revisions to follow. Football is the only one we have agreed is not an acceptable choice.

          • BMX? OOOooo! Wingsuit jumping! Demolition Derby!

            (I’ve run through the list more than a couple of times. You’d be surprised how long my whole list is).

          • I’m still holding out for robot deathmatches, Real Steel style.

          • So, DD, would you let your child be a robot boxer?

          • I understand no organized football with rules and stuff, but no Kill the Guy With the Ball?

      • If I have a kid that is interested in it, I would be supportive of football or any other sport. They’d have to want it, though. I might nudge them on other sports, but I would probably take a more cautious only-if-they-want-it approach to football.

        The wife might be a harder sell. This is likely to be a bit of a tug-of-war in all sorts of safety vs experience conflicts. (And, I should add, this is all subject to change the second I hold them in my arms and promise that nothing bad will EVER happen to them.)

        • my wife would not be too into it, but i would let him play. i’d have to, as it seems he’s inherited my size genes. but beyond high school…it wouldn’t be my choice at that point, but i’d be concerned about a lot of things, including injuries.

          i wonder if, in america, there’s a market for an ironman, old style 1920s leather helmet league – because (as far as i know) there’s no longer term brain injury issues with rugby or gaelic football players, right? then again, the playing styles are very, very different and there’s a lot less of the 15 yards of steam style hits, however.

  4. I’ll take a brief stab at the legal issues: assumption of the risk is going to be a big, big issue for a player to overcome. Perhaps the player was not aware of the cumulative effect of many mid-level hits over time, perhaps the player was not aware of the lingering damages that could result from a concussion. But no player could help but be aware that serious, long-term, potentially crippling injuries can result from playing football at this level, in the way that it is played. By this day and age, everyone has seen, or heard of, the legendary Joe Theisman ankle reversal. The “hard hits” side of the NFL is actively celebrated; while I don’t think NFL Films markets it anymore, you can still find videos of “The Hardest Tooth-Shatteringest Knock-Your-Lights-Out Hits of the 2002 Season With Special Blindside Tackle Bonus Reel” or similar quality products. Any fool who steps on to an NFL field knows that he’s going to be a target of powerful, fast, and very very aggressive action, which produces at least one significant injury per game. So I think that as a matter of law, the NFL would have a strong case that the player, any player from any point in history, must have known that he was entering an arena in which he could have sustained a life-altering injury. And that’s part of the reason why the players demand, and the teams pay, such high salaries.

    With that said, now that more medical evidence is being discovered — through the steady advance of time, accumulation of scientific evidence, and the gathering and sharing of former players’ experiences — the NFL does have a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent future harm, to the extent possible. And I think that it is doing so, with regards to equipment upgrades and the new medical procedures. The use of internal sanctions is questionable, though — for instance, the punishment meted out on the New Orleans Saints for the “bounty on Brett.” No one needed to tell any defensive player on the Saints to hit Favre hard in that game. The coach should be permitted to identify anticipated weak points or critical points in the other side and coach his team to target them — focusing attention on the quarterback is and ought to remain a legitimate defensive strategy. The “take Favre out” bounty was over the top theatrics, I agree, but it was hardly anything that any linebacker wouldn’t have tried to do given an opportunity to do so, all on his own.

    • I basically agree with all of this, with two caveats:

      First, it’s going to be a really big problem for the NFL if it comes out in discovery that they had information on concussions that they covered-up.

      Second, you write:
      “And I think that it is doing so, with regards to equipment upgrades and the new medical procedures. ”

      I’m just not at all certain about the equipment upgrades part of this sentence, on which there’s a good article from Gregg Easterbrook here: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=easterbrook-110719_virginia_tech_helmet_study&sportCat=nfl

      I also wonder the extent to which the old medical procedures are going to wind up being an issue to the extent they resulted in doctors and trainers telling players it was safe to get back on the field moments after suffering a concussion.

      • Thanks to both of you for these comments! I’ve enjoyed all the discussion here, but you’ve delved into some of the real meat I was hoping to hear people weigh in on.

        Another point worth considering is the extent to which the NFL has to consider PR in a way that other companies might not. If a trial were to occur and the NFL or a team came out and said, on the record, “Look, we ALL knew this was really dangerous. You guys chose to do it and we paid you millions. Meanwhile, we made billions. It wasn’t our job to risk sacrificing any of that so that you wouldn’t all die before you hit 60,” they are going to deal with one hell of a PR backlash.

        Mark, thanks for bringing up Easterbrook. He’s been championing true efforts to improve player safety for a while and rightly pointing out the NFL’s hypocrisy. It is hard to take the NFL’s efforts seriously when they were trying to push for an 18 game schedule, which was as blatant a money grab as you can find.

        • Honestly, the more I learn about this issue, the more I’m convinced that the NFL isn’t so much interested in player safety as it is interested in covering its butt and putting the blame on the players. The Saints bounty scandal is starting to really bug me, in this regard: no evidence shared with the players or their union, or at least virtually none; heavy reliance on the Hargrove declaration, which doesn’t actually say a thing about what the players did or did not do, only what Gregg Williams (phtooey!) told Hargrove to say to cover his own rearend. Part of me also wonders if Goodell hasn’t been going out of his way to make himself a lightning rod for the players on this issue by building in all sorts of procedural unfairness and in general practically daring players to speak up and complain about how “this ain’t powder puff,” not to mention file suit, with the full backing of the union, in protest of their suspensions.

          In effect, the NFL’s message in a few months is going to be “See what happened when we tried to crack down on this issue at a time when no one could deny the risks? The players continued to hit just as hard and refused to cooperate with us for their own good. How can any of these players suing us say that they would have acted any differently if they knew then what we know now?”

          • That’s certainly a reasonable hypothesis given the evidence. It’s also a likely hypothesis independent of any evidence. So it looks bad for the NFL. And especially so when you include reports of the team of doctors and scientists hired by the NFL to rebut independent research into the long term effects of head trauma. It looks like the NFL has a history of wilfully encouraging the ‘violence’ even while aware of the long term consequences. If that’s right, and I think it is, then the current path you’re suggesting is the case gains even more credibility.

          • The more I see of the NFL’s business practices, the more I’m convinced that cartel needs to be broken up.

      • “First, it’s going to be a really big problem for the NFL if it comes out in discovery that they had information on concussions that they covered-up. ”

        I dunno about that. The tobacco companies covered up information for years and they’re still around. The various law-suits have been tailored to not put them out of business.

        • True, but we’re not talking about whether the suits will be enough to put the NFL out of business (by themselves, probably not), just the circumstances under which the NFL would wind up being liable.

    • I disagree on two grounds.

      First, NFL players are not compensated better per-year than NBA or MLB players, who are in far less danger of crippling or chronic injuries. Moreover, NFL player careers are shorter, and unlike in the other sports, their salaries aren’t guaranteed. It’s hard to see any combat bonus in there.

      Second, the current set of issues isn’t about sustaining one serious injury (or two or three), it’s about the likely effect of a career ‘s worth of brain trauma. It’s one thing to say that some number of players will retire with life-long injuries, it’s another to say that a sizable fraction of players will have cognitive impairment for the majority of their lives. First, that’s not a risk that anyone knew about, and it’s difficult to say that players should have expected it. Second, it’s not clear to me that the sport as a whole generates enough money to compensate the players for that risk.

      • +1. THeisman and Seau are not related issues, and one was more foreseeable and dealable withable than the other.

  5. The issue is, as it were, an arms race (and legs, hands, heads, torsoes, etcetera.)

    Fans want exciting games. “Exciting” is usually defined as “lots of points and my team wins”. Lots of points means you need faster and bigger players, and faster bigger offense means you need faster bigger defense to counter it.

    And, really, there’s not much way to counter that so long as you’re using homegrown humans instead of clones. The above-suggested weight limit isn’t going to help because it just encourages development of speed rather than size, and instead of huge guys running into each other pretty fast you’ll have kinda-big guys running into each other extremely fast. Vehicle racing can enforce performance limits for safety reasons because the actor there is a machine and not a person, and is therefore totally controllable.

    Maybe the answer is flag football. Maybe the answer is to have all football players wear an enormous combination shoulder-pad/helmet thing that makes them like Pyramid Head from Silent Hill. Maybe the answer is for

    It’s not like this would be the first time a widely-accepted practice was found to be actually quite harmful. Everyone used to think that polychlorinated biphenyls were no problem, even though it seems extremely obvious now, because nobody knew what covalent chlorine did to DNA. Everyone used to think that using lead to make water pipes was fine, because nobody knew what heavy-metal toxicity did to the brain.

    • It should also be noted that this is something players can avoid, coaches can train to avoid, and the sports media can work to avoid. Football is not like boxing, where the whole point is to punch the other guy in the head until he stops moving.

      To some extent I wonder if football should introduce a player-penalty system, like in hockey, where a player deemed too rough or who makes dangerous hits is removed from the game for a short time. It would certainly change the way football is played if a team’s star defensive end isn’t available for three or four downs!

      • Excellent points, Duck. Force is still mass times acceleration. Or whatever. If one decreases but the other increases, you haven’t really done anything about it.

        • KE = 1/2 M V^2

          But M is in kilograms, V is in meters per second, and KE is in joules.

          Bo Jackson was 230 (105 kg) and he ran the 40 (36.58 meters) in 4.12 seconds. So that’s about 932 joules, 687 foot-pounds of force.

          Mario Williams is 295 (134 kg) and runs the 40 in 4.7 seconds. That’s about 1190 joules, 887 foot-pounds of force, for the Imperials.

          Generally, shaving a couple of tenths off your 40 time for the sake of adding sufficient weight is going to result in a much bigger force. The differential in human speeds is much less than the differential in human weight.

          • What I was going for was less about momentum and more about control and resilience. Lighter players who run faster would have a harder time pulling their hits, resulting in more situations where people just blindly slam into each other instead of trying to make an actual tackle (there is skill and technique involved, although it’s hard to tell if you don’t know what you’re looking at.) And the players, with limited weight to work with and that traded for speed, are going to tend to be tall skinny guys–less able to take the hits, more leverage on joints to hurt them, and more area to get hit overall. Enforcing a weight limit might not do anything but change the injury proportions around.

          • Great points all around. Smaller is no assurance of safer. Head injuries probably function somewhat differently than other injuries, possibly to the extent that there is an optimal size/weight/speed relationship, but I have no idea how to begin to determine what that is.

          • Duck, I would totally see your first point if anyone ever bothered to pull a hit with any regularity. That doesn’t seem to occur too often.

            Although your point about changing the injury proportions is valid.

            Putting in a weight cap and getting rid of the hard-shell helmet might do it (reduce concussions), combined… although you’d probably see an uptick in other sorts of injuries.

          • Head injuries obey straight F=MA equations. The brain is three pounds of tofu consistency isolated in fluid. It slams around in the brain case, subtly injuring it with each such impact.

  6. For what it’s worth, I’ll take a stab at it.

    First of all, I plan not to allow my children to play football. My husband, who played high school football, lightly disagrees with me on this, but I don’t think he plans to put up a stink. My 10 year old nephew just got a concussion playing football.

    As for the ethical issue, I think it all depends on the fact of the matter of whether the harm is as bad as is currently suspected. Informed consent is very difficult to discuss because a) not even neurologists agree about the extent of harm, and b) most people start playing football when they are too young to consent. Perhaps a good amount of harm is done before consent is really obtainable. Also, the fact that players are paid oodles of money to subject themselves to risk for mere entertainment purposes could be considered coercive. Especially since it’s not clear how informed they are even as adults.

    I come from a family that adores football, and did nothing on Sundays but watch football. I knew every stat of every team. I no longer watch, but my whole family does. So I hate to say it, but if the problems are as people suspect, I think it is immoral. A fan’s eyes are enabling the oodles of money that are generated. This in turn encourages an activity that results in high percentages of neurological and psychiatric problems in young men, often with devastating consequences. The team owners and advertisers are more culpable. It may not be Roman blood sport, since the intention is not to see injuries. But it’s edging in that direction.

    There’s risk in any sport. But the risks seem so high and so devastating with football.

    Football is entertainment. There are other ways to be entertained. It’s one thing if your job is indispensable. But this isn’t.

    If there is, in fact, a way that seems to mitigate the risk, then of course the immorality of it all is lessened or removed. But the problem is, how will we know until years down the road if a mitigation actually works?

    • Rose-

      I’ve had similar thoughts when I watch shows like “Deadliest Catch”, where guys risk life and limb so that people can enjoy rare culinary delicacies (that, truth be told, I don’t even find that tasty…). Of course, this is compounded by the viewing audience. But would you take a similar view of people who work in extremely dangerous conditions in industries that are entirely non-essential?

      • Crabbing is possibly similar. I’m not sure exactly how risky it is. I’m gathering the risks are clearer to those who engage in it, and they do not have wads of cash dangled in front of them. So maybe that lessens the immorality a bit. Coercion is less clearly an issue.

        • The lack of cash is a function of their lack of options. Grow up in a fishing town in Alaska and what else do you have?

          • Kazzy, what about the ones who specifically come from out of town to be there?

          • They be straight trippin’. I hope the Kraken gets them.

            FWIW, I’m not necessarily agreeing with Rose about the ethics of being a fan of football. I was just sharing similar questions I’ve wondered about, though have yet to answer.

            Where things get really dicey is when the pleasure derived is based on the pain inflicted. It is one thing to love the taste of King Crab legs and have no idea how they get from the bottom of the ocean to your plate. It is quite another to enjoy them and to have that enjoyment heightened by the knowledge that a stranger half a world away risked their life to bring them to you. Likewise, taking particular pleasure in NFLers getting injured is very different than enjoying the drama of sport.

        • But, yes, the analogy is less than perfect. Just curious if/where we draw a line when it comes t dangerous decadence.

    • “Football is entertainment. There are other ways to be entertained. It’s one thing if your job is indispensable. But this isn’t.”
      Basically, can’t we replace “football” with “King crab” or “gold” and “entertainment” with “fed” or “adorned”.

  7. If any hypothetical future son (or if actual daughter) wish to play football, I’d let him. Of course, I suspect by the time they’d be in high school where the real hits start, that perhaps rules and equipment may have made a lot of progress by then and I’d feel a lot more comfortable with it.

  8. This is one of the things that bugs me about pro wrestling. The style of wrestling that they use is one that is conducive to two things:

    Turning a blind eye to steroid use

    From what I understand, UFC is actually *VERY* safe now given that referees are given all of the power they need to stop a fight if they think one of the two combattants is likely to be harmed rather than merely hurt. Pro wrestling, by comparison, expects you to wrestle hurt, wrestle injured, go out there early even if you’ve got a concussion (see Hart, Benoit, pretty much everybody), and the mortality rate for pro wrestlers is depressingly high. Watch any highlight reel from the 80’s and you’re giving a litany of “he’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead…”

    What would I want them to do? I wouldn’t mind going back to a more 80’s style of wrestling where the match takes 20 slow-paced minutes where a high-impact move would be a body slam instead of 3.5 intense minutes where a high-impact move is jumping from the ring post through the announce table.

    • I wasn’t going to bring up MMA/UFC since I’m a fan and I know you aren’t, Jaybird. But since you did…

      I think your “VERY* safe” is unfortunately too optimistic. There are good things about concussions in the UFC compared to the NFL or boxing . In MMA, they have no ten count or standing eight count as in boxing, so the moment a guy goes out, or the moment he or she can no longer intelligently defend themselves, the fight is supposed to be over. And while in football, the guy who took the nasty head shot on Sunday is under immense pressure to practice on Wednesday, and play next Sunday, MMA fighters who have had a concussion or head tramua in a fight are suspended for weeks.

      But in the middle of a fight, a guy with a strong chin can take a ton of abuse without getting KO’ed or TKO’ed. Greg Jackson, a trainer that many fans love to hate, took some heat recently for sending a fighter back to fight the next round, even though he was clearly out on his feet in his corner (luckily the referee realized how out of it the fighter was, and stopped the fight). Shogun Rua and Dan Henderson had a huge fight recently which was five rounds of incredible violence. Fans (including myself) loved it becuause both fighters showed such heart and will, but afterwards, you have to wonder how much they sacrificed for that 25 minutes of fighting.

  9. I don’t think the death of the NFL will come from anything the NFL is doing.

    No, it’ll come from the talent pipeline that feeds it.

    The US is rather unique in that its pro sports pipeline is fed by a group of amateur players playing from a young age with no compensation. Even up to the “quasi-pro” level of the NCAA, these players don’t get compensated in any meaningful sense, despite the fact that college football is, and will remain big business.

    At some point, when the conclusive links between football injuries and mental injuries become hard to bury, my guess is that we’ll also start seeing more proof that even playing through high school leads to many repetitive head injuries that have developmental risks. At that point the game’s up. No parent in their right mind would let their kid keep playing the sport, especially when A. the kid won’t get paid, even into college and B. the probability of long term, irreparable damage is so high.

    I already find it morally reprehensible that youth athletes in the US are forced to take risks without compensation. At some point, there will be a massive backlash against the exploitation cartel known as the NCAA. And when that gig is up, either the NFL ponies up and creates an actual youth system (and all the additional expenses, insurance and compensation to kids it’ll require) ala the soccer system world wide, or it’ll die.

    • “At some point, there will be a massive backlash against the exploitation cartel known as the NCAA.”

      By whom, though? The only people actually going after the NCAA cartel are those that are on the outside that want to get in.

      Not that you’re wrong about the explotation part. I mean, you can kind of consider the players in the NCAA to be ‘interns’*, but nobody actually pays just to see the interns at Pratt and Whitney draft blueprints.

      *and somewhat better paid than many interns – but unpaid internships are their own problem

      • Two people die or are paralyzed in the same season.

        • Only if one or both are Len Bias level stars. And even then, I’d be skeptical of systemic level change.

      • I’d imagine eventually enough players will get fed up with coaches getting 7 figure salaries while they get nothing.

        • A big part of the problem is the NFL’s age limit. That has already been tested and found kosher by the courts. The college players themselves don’t have a whole lot of leverage (in part because the NFL isn’t an option for threeish years). They always have the option not to play college football. They don’t, of course, because they get non-monetary benefit from doing so (in addition to the scholarships, I mean).

          In addition to all of this, the case can easily be made that with rare exception, the institutions confer more value on college football than do the actual players. If you took all of the players from the big schools and put them in a minor league system, nobody would watch. Take the remaining players and put them in big school uniforms, people would watch.

          This is one of the differences between the NCAA and the NFL. Take the NFL players and put them in USFL uniforms, the USFL succeeds and the NFL fails, most likely.

          • I just find it fascinating that the most popular sport in America is essentially a government granted monopoly, which builds stadiums paid for by public coffers, with a player development system subsidized and operated (entirely free of charge) by public education institutions and the players themselves not subject to compensation until the age of 21.

          • I think it’s always possible to do the same thing the NHL does. Which is have drafts out of high school, with contract options being held by a pro team while the kids are in college.

            I also think all athletic scholarships should be guaranteed for 4 years absent massive violations on the side of the player like a felony. Certainly college teams shouldn’t be allowed to cut a player’s scholarship for getting hurt. (Players should also probably be paid at least the prevailing wage for a full time RAship…but that’s another matter)

          • Casting someone adrift for getting hurt is to me a very small part of the problem. (I don’t know how often it happens though, and I’m sure it sucks for anyone so affected). There are, per wiki, 125 FBS teams with (at least) 85 scholarships apiece. That is, over 10,000 people in the pipeline for what is approximately 1,700 roster spots. (and that’s not counting the lower div players or the walk-ons) So the vast majority of the players are cast adrift after their college careers.

            (time is normally a factor in personnel funnels like this, but the players association says about 3.5 years for the average length of a career, so it’s not a big a factor in this as say, filling the US Senate)

            (one thing that I’ve noticed about weeknight football is that, when everyone announces their schools, they seem to be all over the place – i.e. not concentrated in the ‘power conferences’. Don’t know of any stats in that regard either though)

          • Nob, that NHL idea sounds fascinating. Superficially, I think it sounds just great. I do have a lot of questions about it, though (what the relationship is between the draftee and the team, whether and how players are drafted after their freshman year, and so on).

            I’m with you on multi-year scholarships. Some universities actually do this as it provides a recruiting advantage (it doesn’t count as an athletics scholarship if they’re not playing). I am not so much on universities directly paying players above and beyond expenses.

          • Basically the NHL does a draft system where all players in North America 18 – 20 are eligible for draft entry, after which point the team has exclusive negotiation rights to a player for 2 years with the exception of college players who the NHL team retains rights to until they leave college. They retain NCAA eligibility so usually an NHL team will draft a college player at around 19 or 20, see how they pan out in the NCAA and if they look good, sign them.

            It works better this way because of how junior team leagues work and how the world wide system works for recruiting in general.

  10. One other thing to note, is that tall, big heavy guys are always statistically prone to shorter life spans than short,small, not heavy guys. And the other health issue these guys normally face beside the brain thing is gaining a gazillon pounds right after retirement because they’re used to a 4-6k calorie/day diet; no problem when burning that much as an active player, but obviously one when you’re not at the gym all day.

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