As the college football season begins this weekend and the National Football League starts play next weekend, a settlement of $725 million for concussion injuries suffered by former players is awaiting approval by the United States District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania. The settlement comes two months after mediated negotiations and will settle all pending lawsuits on the matter that involves over 4,000 retired players and their families.
This settlement comes after many years of controversy regarding neurologic injuries caused by playing years of football. Scientists have been finding that impacts to the heads of football players from the brutal hits taken each time they take the field cause repeated concussions and less serious brain injuries known as “sub-concussions.” These concussions may lead to dementia and chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. Young players with CTE experience problems involving mood and behavior. As the players age and continue to play football, they will experience confusion, memory loss, and depression. Most players do not realize they have CTE until near the end of their football careers after playing the sport since elementary school. There is still not much known about CTE especially its relationship with Alzheimer’s disease. Some people, such as Malcolm Gladwell, have gone as far to say that college football should summarily be banned due to these health concerns because the effects of CTE begin as early as the players’ college years.
The $765 million settlement includes $675 million for compensation of former players who suffered from neurologic injury, $75 million for baseline medical exams, and $10 million for research and education funding. With the inclusion of attorneys’ fees, the NFL will pay over $1 billion for this settlement.
Football and other contact sports will be changed by this ruling. Every year the NFL and college football have seemed to add additional guidelines for football players with concussions. It does not seem to be preventing CTE or other chronic brain injuries. Players will have to stop playing the sports longer after a concussion. There likely will be more monitoring of players’ brains while they play the sports. The technology is improving. Helmet technology have also improved and will continue to improve especially after this agreement.
Rules in contact sports will change. I do not believe that it will be as dramatic as eliminating special teams in football. Not all head injuries occur at kickoff or punt return. It is also extreme to ban contact sports like football for elementary-age children up to college-age students. There needs to be better safety rules in place with better helmets. With new technology and more studies, this will be possible. Contact sports always will have an element of risk, but there is no reason why the sports cannot be made safer.
Many players believe this is a step in the right direction, but still more needs to be done. Even after this settlement, there is concern for the health of current and future football players