At the heart of the issue is safety. Identifying the problem is easy. Developing scientific-based solutions to the problem is not. It’s hard to fathom that the settlement does anything to reassure players that they are safer once they step on the field. They aren’t.
The NFL has a responsibility not only to its players but also to the tens of thousands suiting up on Saturdays for their college teams, those representing their high schools on Friday nights or young ones giving it their first shot in a pee-wee league game. They all dream of making a big play someday, but none give thought of delivering a blow or receiving one that could lead to leaving a player susceptible to Parkinson’s disease or worse.
Where will the game be then?
Injuries and deaths are leading to an increase in lawsuits, and juries are awarding significant judgments. Just a few months ago, a partially paralyzed high school player in Colorado was awarded an $11.1 million judgment against the school district and Riddell, the country’s largest football helmet manufacturer. In San Diego, the school district agreed to pay a former player $4.4 million when he sustained a brain injury.
ESPN writer Gregg Easterbrook said these multimillion-dollar awards – and others that are sure to follow -- place school systems in legal quicksand that has the potential to drag the sport under. If insurance costs become prohibitive, how could football at the prep level survive? It won’t.
Whether it’s dealing with injuries or the costs associated with the sport, solutions to pressing medical problems must be resolved and done so quickly. To those in the National Football League, the concussion settlement emits a stench amounting to nothing more than a realization about the cost of doing business. The question that looms larger is whether football as a business can survive its own shortsightedness.
Tom Lindley is a sports columnist for the CNHI News Service. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.