NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement and CTE

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the NFL and the NFL Players’ Association sets aside funds devoted to medical research.  The media has increasingly covered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and there has been a report that scientists at UCLA have discovered a way to diagnose CTE in patients that are still alive.   This test is still being developed and is used by UCLA and TauMark.

It is interesting that this discovery came from UCLA because the NFL devotes its funds to research at Harvard University.  Further, the amount set aside for this research at Harvard University is limited to $11 million.  An additional $44 million has been set aside for charitable work and player benefits.  The total of $55 million comes entirely from the players’ share of revenues. 

In the current CBA, players were forced to take less from NFL revenues, as the owners flexed their financial muscles and locked the players out.  This means the owners have forced players to take less money and to fund any CTE research.  The CBA sets $22 million dollars aside for charitable work, but this money is under the NFL’s control.  This money should also be directed toward research instead of toward enhancing the NFL’s reputation.  There are many players that engage in charitable work with their own funds, it seems the NFL should do more to protect the players that allow it to remain lucrative.

The research is funded entirely by NFL players and these players also bear the burden of furthering any research into CTE, because their brains provide the best opportunities for research.  Tony Dorsett, Joe DeLamielleure and Leonard Marshall submitted themselves to the recently developed test and have been diagnosed with CTE.  Additionally, some of the best players in NFL history, such as Junior Seau, have donated their brains to research into CTE.

The NFL owners have turned their backs on players in the CBA, and because of their bargaining power, it appears owners will be able to continually shift the burden of CTE onto the players.  The funds taken from the players’ share of revenues will continually increase over the course of the CBA, but the owners commitment will remain nonexistent.  The NFL should force owners to match the commitment the players have made, and further the research that will be vital to allowing players to live normal lives after playing football.



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