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July 8, 2012 1:03 PM   Subscribe

Former all pro NFL running back, 38 year old Priest Holmes feels that all NFL players suffer from the violence of the game, but believes running backs are at an increased risk if they average dozens of carries a game for years at a time. Holmes recalled how hits changed the color of the sky. Another former NFL running back, 32 year old Jamal Lewis talked about his memory losses and head trauma. Both men could encounter the cognitive decline lesser known former Chargers running back 45 year old Steve Hendrickson has experienced. posted by cashman (68 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Take away the helmets, the problem resolves itself.
posted by tigrefacile at 1:08 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The concussion issue is going to change the nature of the sport.
It has to change for the safety of the players - but it will not be as popular.
The violence of the game is big part of attraction to fans.
The hey-day of the NFL has officially passed.
posted by Flood at 1:10 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The NFL is going to have to face up to some stark realities in the coming years as more concussion research is done. The changes that will eventually implemented in terms of rules of play, equipment worn and team medical staff protocol will drastically change the league in the next couple of decades.
posted by Tenacious.Me.Tokyo at 1:14 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Earth has not anything to show more fair.
posted by tigrefacile at 1:14 PM on July 8, 2012


The NFL is littered with stories like this, William Perry's is pretty depressing at times. Hocked his own Super Bowl ring at one point (a 10yo kid bought it from a restaurant and gave it back to Perry. He paid 8.5K out of his college fund for the ring (which may well have been a fake)
posted by edgeways at 1:17 PM on July 8, 2012


It would help the NFL's case if they hadn't spent ten years trying to suppress the research and denying the results. Now Roger Goodell is going apeshit against the Saints to demonstrate their commitment to fixing what they spent the last decade trying to hide and deny.
posted by localroger at 1:18 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The story about the 10 year old kid buying Perry's ring is ridiculous.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 1:21 PM on July 8, 2012


The hey-day of the NFL has officially passed.

Hah. You've got to be kidding. This is the circus of the "bread and circuses".

Two words: Tort reform.

It's not going to be pretty.
posted by Talez at 1:22 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Going from bare knuckles to gloves didn't bring about the end of boxing's popularity. But failing to go further and require head gear may have contributed to its decline.
posted by samofidelis at 1:30 PM on July 8, 2012


The lawsuits will eventually change or terminate the game.
posted by terrapin at 1:34 PM on July 8, 2012


It says a lot about the current state of the NFL that I read this:

Former all pro NFL running back, 38 year old Priest Holmes

and thought, "oh, god, he died too?"
posted by something something at 1:45 PM on July 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


Going from bare knuckles to gloves didn't bring about the end of boxing's popularity. But failing to go further and require head gear may have contributed to its decline.

Gloves didn't make boxing any safer, and head gear doesn't do a whole lot more than stop cuts.
posted by Dark Messiah at 1:47 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I once got all upside-down in the air going off a jump on my snowboard trying to do some ridiculous late-90s snowboard trick -- backside air roast beef bone or something -- and found myself with the back of my head leading my plummet. My noggin slammed hard onto the icy midwestern slope and bounced around quite a bit and I pretty much flattened out into a very still snow angel. As I lifted my head up to see if I was in one piece, I experienced the exact things he described in that article: tunnel vision leading to a crazy pink sky with dark clouds. It looked like a cartoon or a hallucination, and it stayed that way for several seconds. It cleared after that and I peeled myself up and drifted lazily down the rest of the hill, but there is no way I could imagine doing that multiple times, every single week without some serious neurological repercussions.

I am pleased to see that a lot of kids now are using helmets. However, the tricks they are doing are far more insane than my backside air. These kids that I taught to snowboard are now intentionally going upside down and inverted. The helmets are still a good idea in snowboarding, but tigrefacile is right about football in that the helmet there changes the way hits are administered entirely. I don't know that removing helmets from the game is necessarily the solution, but further work to prevent the types of hits that their misuse has created needs to increase if you want to reduce these types of injuries.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 1:49 PM on July 8, 2012


The violence of the game is big part of attraction to fans.

Have you ever seen NASCAR highlights?
posted by XhaustedProphet at 1:50 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I played on my 9th grade football team for a week before quitting because the coach was an asshole. I wish I could thank him.

When I was a teenager I was pretty obsessed with the sport and followed obsessively. Now I suppose if I sat down to watch I could find it entertaining, but more abstractly/intellectually it creeps me out. It's a gladiatorial spectacle. The Los Angeles Coliseum is the most appropriately named football stadium in the country. I would not shed a tear if the sport mostly went away.
posted by pdq at 1:51 PM on July 8, 2012


Going from bare knuckles to gloves didn't bring about the end of boxing's popularity.

My understanding is that gloves made boxing far more dangerous. Bare knuckle, you break the bones in your hand after a while; with gloves, you can hit with the same force effectively forever.
posted by gerryblog at 1:57 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


“This color obviously isn’t going to be blue. It can be a color that can be orange. It can be red. The sky could turn green,” Holmes told The Daily. “There’s even an episode where you see a clear light, like light at the end of the tunnel.”
Holy shit. I've been knocked in the head a few times, but never, ever saw the sky change colour. When you see a white light and hear the trumpets of the heavenly host, it's time to quit for the day and see a doctor.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:57 PM on July 8, 2012


The most important thing to remember about this is that while the NFL players are the biggest and the strongest and hit the hardest, this is NOT strictly an NFL issue. Debilitating head trauma is taking place in the NFL, the NCAA, high school and Pop Warner.

Imagine the southern states being told that high school football is too dangerous and needs to be done away with. The result would make the Civil War of the 1860s look like a gentlemen's disagreement.
posted by delfin at 1:58 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, considering the rise of MMA coincident with the decline of boxing, it's hard to see how lack of padding has been a contributing factor in said decline. Seems much more likely that the sport's endemic corruption made it impossible for even fans to follow and enjoy.
posted by aaronetc at 1:59 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have you ever seen NASCAR highlights?

I got Bingo four times last night!

Modern NASCAR is probably safer than being a lineman or running back at this point, though. I think football will be able to adjust for the safety concerns and maintain popularity, there is a lot more to the game than just the violence. It's an amazingly strategic game that requires speed, quickness, endurance, and mental discipline in addition to being brutal.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:04 PM on July 8, 2012


What is the date of origin of the term "punch drunk"? That is how many years we have all known that repeated head trauma can really mess you up. The NFL's strategy is to delay these lawsuits as long as possible. Football players die young and if they stonewall long enough everybody will be dead that they did something documented and actionable against. The people who run the courts are mostly football fans and they don't want to see the NFL go away either.
posted by bukvich at 2:05 PM on July 8, 2012


Flood: The violence of the game is big part of attraction to fans.
I see this argument quite often, but I'm not sure I believe it and I don't think the League does either. I think fans want to see long passes and touchdowns, and the NFL has changed the rules to make that happen more often. Just ask James Harrison what the NFL thinks of the "big hit" mentality.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:08 PM on July 8, 2012


The NFL loves the big hits except when it's to their pretty superstar quarterbacks. Then it becomes abhorrent violence!
posted by basicchannel at 2:11 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


there is a lot more to the game than just the violence. It's an amazingly strategic game that requires speed, quickness, endurance, and mental discipline in addition to being brutal

My wife and a friend were in Las Vegas for the 2009 Super Bowl, which of course our team won. So they were getting into the elevator after the game, all festooned with Saints swag, and this British guy gets in with them and takes in all the swag.

So they're expecting the football vs. soccer comment about how violent and coarse American football is, and my friend asks "Did you see the game?" and the British gentleman says "I really don't get American football." Pause. "It requires far too much thinking."

So yeah, the game will survive. The hits will have to be controlled but the chess match between the coaches is still a thing.
posted by localroger at 2:12 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


What is the date of origin of the term "punch drunk"?
1915. That's 97 years folk have had to think about how repeated harm to the head can cause brain damage.
posted by Jehan at 2:26 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Holmes recalled how hits changed the color of the sky

I can recall taking hits that changed the color of the sky, too. But that had nothing to do with football.

I'd love to have some more hits someday...
posted by hippybear at 2:38 PM on July 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


Average career length of an NFL running back: three years.
posted by stratastar at 2:45 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


A friend is doing research on this. They put sensors in the helmets of high school team and gave them all cognitive ability tests before the season, and after. At first, they thought the project was a bust because not one kid suffered a concussion that season. Then they got the results of the post-season testing. Many kids showed very significant declines in cognitive abilities even without concussions. The good news is that for high school kids at least, their brains seem to recover to full operating strength shortly after the season ends. I have to think the older you are, the less your brain recovers from the beatings.
posted by COD at 2:49 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


We are at Peak Football. It is all downhill from here.

Whatever happens with the NFL suits, the quickest changes will be in the public schools. A couple of high-profile lawsuits, a couple of big awards by sympathetic juries against school districts, and high school football will quickly unravel. School boards will look at the financial liability and vote to eliminate football programs. No federal action will be needed and it will happen in the South as well as elsewhere. Colleges will follow suit. It is inevitable and will take place in the next few years.

Here is a good article about this that I posted a few months back: What Would the End of Football Look Like?
posted by LarryC at 2:53 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


A friend is doing research on this. They put sensors in the helmets of high school team and gave them all cognitive ability tests before the season, and after. At first, they thought the project was a bust because not one kid suffered a concussion that season. Then they got the results of the post-season testing. Many kids showed very significant declines in cognitive abilities even without concussions.

Holy shit, COD. Has this research been released yet?
posted by LarryC at 2:54 PM on July 8, 2012


Isn't that why they are otherwise overpaid?
Informed consent contract clauses in 3-2-1
posted by Fupped Duck at 2:54 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't that why they are otherwise overpaid?

Median NFL salary (in 2009): $770,000

Average length of an NFL career: 3.5 years.

Average worth of an NFL team: $1.02 billion

Average net worth of an NFL team owner: $1.4 billion

Please explain to me again how these guys are "overpaid".
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:04 PM on July 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


"It requires far too much thinking."

It's really quite difficult to watch a televised football game and know what's going on. It's strange to say, but I've learned far more about the sport from playing and watching Madden than from watching actual football on TV. On TV, you can't see any deep safeties to start the play (which are one of the more important "reads" a quarterback makes), and you can't see a receiver who runs a route of more than 8 yards either. So basically on every pass play, it's impossible to know where the receivers are or who is open - it makes things more difficult for a fan to be a casual observer (unlike many other televised sports).

I know it's slightly off-topic, but I'm actually excited that the NFL is going to allow more of the "all-22" camera footage (which is similar to the behind-the-QB-view in Madden) to be used in broadcasts. I think it will allow the more casual observers to enjoy the game, and maybe (very small maybe) these fans will be a little more put off by the violence inherent in today's NFL (and therefore be more likely to support changes that reduce these injuries to players). I would like to see the NFL embrace some of the more casual fans, the same way the NBA has done, though I don't think American football will ever have the global appeal of basketball.

The NBA actually had a somewhat analogous situation in the 90s, where play was much more physical and there still kind of existed the role of "enforcers" (though not quite as blatant as in hockey). Guards dribbling through the lane would get routinely knocked to the ground with no foul called, and on-court fights were met with a fine or maybe a one-game suspension. While the injuries we nowhere near as severe as those in football, Commissioner Stern (who I think deserves a medal for what he's done for the sport) took steps to protect players and make the "enforcers" less valuable as teammates using rule changes to the game itself as well as longer mandatory suspensions for fighting, increased fines, enabling refs to use more discretion, etc.

That said (and without reading all the above links, I apologize), there are two steps I'd like football to take - the first is to reduce the amount of padding players wear (including around the head), as it's really the best way that players can grasp the concept of "not using your helmet as a projectile/weapon". The second is to hand out some heavy suspensions for players that break whatever safety rules are in place - if a player consistently makes dirty plays, the NFL should be able to remove them from the sport for much longer than a few games. This sends a signal that teams should know they are taking on a risk if they employ dirty players. Unfortunately, as recent research done on concussions suggests, it's the cumulative impact that's so dangerous, not just one or two big hits. (LarryC, I think one of the main universities doing research on this is Duke, you might be able to find info from them?)

The last thing is that these changes take time - let's remember that these guys got to where they are in no small part because they worked their asses off learning how to deliver painful hits. That instinct won't disappear with a rule change, but a rule change can curb that instinct in younger players so the future of the sport is safer.
posted by antonymous at 3:06 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am a big fan of football, but there is clearly a serious issue here that needs to be addressed. If you look at look at rugby and aussie rules, there is plenty of scope to have a fast, violent sport that doesn't require accepting severe risk of head trauma as a pre-requisite for participating.
Both of those sports prohibit hits above the shoulder. If you make a high tackle, you are going to be sin-binned at the least, or perhaps sent off. In either of those cases, your team cannot replace you. Can you imagine 10 v 11 at NFL? It would be a slaughter. If you were the asshole who got sent off, your coach would not be pleased. It would be a pretty easy way to eliminate the head hits almost overnight. Previous evidence from football (the real, rest of the world kind) shows that it is very easy for pros to adjust to the new enforcement regime, with no negative effect on the appeal of the game. In fact, over the last 10 years or so, the NFL has been moving in this direction, continually expanding protection on skill players. It's inevitable, and despite the protests of the purists, it's what's going to happen.
posted by Jakey at 3:06 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


It sounds sarcastic of me, which is a failing of mine in general, but honestly, is there no likelihood of a law granting, ahem, "retroactive immunity?"
posted by tyllwin at 3:11 PM on July 8, 2012


RB's are getting royally screwed by the franchise tag. Their careers are so short that to slap the tag on them when they only really have one shot at a good three year deal is a crime.

I think the players got buggered in general by this CBA. From Goodell's kangaroo courts to the terms of the franchise tag, they need to have serious talk with their union people. I think the owners robbed them blind in exchange for what? A lighter practice regimen is all I can see.

There ought to be serious labour unrest a-brewin'.

The "League" are a bunch of bandit owners hiding behind this fiction they call "The Shield."
posted by Trochanter at 3:18 PM on July 8, 2012


Another possibility I'm not sure has occurred to even the NFL would be to use the technology that is being used to study the problem as a means to regulate it. Instrument all the helmets -- every player, every game, and give each player a permitted concussive load per game. You want to make a big hit, go for it, but everyone's gonna know that if you do it again you might be out of the game.

It would be unprecedented for a personal contact sport but the tech is certainly there; all they need to do is ring up the NASCAR people and ask to borrow it.
posted by localroger at 3:24 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


It would help the NFL's case if they hadn't spent ten years trying to suppress the research and denying the results.

It worked so well for Tobacco and now, even better for Big Oil.

Many kids showed very significant declines in cognitive abilities even without concussions.

But football players are supposed to be stupid, right?

The first 'football victim' I knew was in High School. One of the kids who'd bullied me in Jr. High went on to the same HS I did, so I 'kept an eye' on him even though we didn't share any classes. He was being groomed as a potential star quarterback. First year star quarterback? Sure to be targeted for rough treatment by the defense players of his own team in practice, and before he could play his first game against other teams, he got hit hard, fell wrong and broke his neck. Quadriplegic. After 2 years rehab, he came back to the school in a motorized wheelchair he controlled with small movements of one hand and with a breathing apparatus because his lungs weren't working by themselves, but he was back at school and graduated with the rest of his class. (And credit the school for building a bunch of wheelchair ramps just for him that made it one of the most accessible schools in the '70s) I never got into football as much after that (and went to a college that didn't have a football team).
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:34 PM on July 8, 2012


localroger - Unfortunately, I think your solution could have some unintended consequences, namely an increase in aggressively going after relatively defenseless skill position players (especially elite RBs, WRs, QBs) in an attempt to game the regulation technology. It does have some merit if coupled with other solutions (a ban on hits at shoulder-level and above, for example).
posted by antonymous at 3:43 PM on July 8, 2012


Take away the helmets, the problem resolves itself.

Right. And then we're back to the early 1900s when players were dying of skull fractures.

And that's the problem here: Helmets are designed to prevent players from cracking their skull. They were not designed to reduce the chance of concussions.

What's going on isn't just the NFL owners making money on the backs of the brain-damaged players, though. When they have tried to make a show of reducing these hits (see James Harrison's consistently dangerous leading-with-the-helmet technique) it's the players who get on the NFL's case, along with the usual blowhards in the press, about "this is how the game is played."

I think that's what's most disappointing about all of this. A billion dollars a year, and almost none of it going to researching a better helmet. A billion viewers who complain that the hits just aren't hard enough. And a bunch of players who end up with a lifetime of problems and little money to show for it.

And we all know what's going to happen when the lawsuits really start -- Congress will pass some law to prevent the suits from happening, or divert people to some "compensation fund" that won't even begin to pay for the lifetime of problems that arise from concussions. Because, you see, it's "America's game" and "we need to protect Friday Night Lights" or whatever.

I grew up watching high school and college football. There is truly something great about American football, how it's a sport that demands teamwork as much as individual contributions. At the same time, though, with the obscene amount of money getting pumped into the college game (while the players can't draw a dollar because they're "amateurs") and the increasing unwillingness of the NFL to even begin to address the concussion issue, I'm getting very cynical about football, and I find it very hard to watch.

That and Alabama is winning every damn year again. Bunch of cheaters.
posted by dw at 3:45 PM on July 8, 2012


and almost none of it going to researching a better helmet

Unfortunately, one of the things the research is revealing is that a good enough helmet may not be physically possible. When you hit something and decelerate within a certain distance to stopped, you can massage how quickly the G force builds but there's a certain limit to what you can do. Unless the helmets are made comically large it's likely that no helmet redesign could fix the problem with game play unchanged.

Unfortunately, I think your solution could have some unintended consequences

Yes, this is definitely true and there would have to be different rules for certain players. The thing about adopting the technology though is that sensors and connectivity have become wonderfully cheap, so you can make whatever rules seem necessary and have clear, unambiguous enforcement.
posted by localroger at 3:50 PM on July 8, 2012


That and Alabama is winning every damn year again. Bunch of cheaters.

Your despair just makes us stronger.

Well, that and the cheating.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:54 PM on July 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


continually expanding protection on skill players

You will notice it is not typically those players who kill themselves with a gunshot to the chest so they can have their brain autopsied.
posted by srboisvert at 3:57 PM on July 8, 2012


You will notice it is not typically those players who kill themselves with a gunshot to the chest so they can have their brain autopsied.

This. The risk for skill players like QB's is sudden, traumatic injury, and everyone pretty much understands that. But the real hidden risk is to the linebackers making those hits every play, every game. It's a cumulative problem. And that's why I think instrumentation could solve it, because if we can determine what a permissible cumulative load is, it could be enforced. There's always a risk of a broken bone or worse in a physical sport like football, but everyone knows that. The question is whether we can keep people from losing the last 25 years of a normal lifespan for a few years making a few hundred thousand dollars.
posted by localroger at 4:05 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


that's why I think instrumentation could solve it

Hines Ward spoke on this recently, hypothetically - "For a doctor to read a computer and tell me how hard I've been hit and to pull me out of a game, that won't sit well with a lot of players." The quote was within a story on Outside The Lines about a helmet technology that can measure the hits.
There's a helmet technology in place -- and there has been for some time -- that allows teams to assess the force and impact of a blow to a player's head in real time.

Created by University of North Carolina professor Kevin Guskiewicz and used by the school's football team, the Helmet Impact Telemetry (HIT) system would appear to be the type of advancement the concussion-conscious NFL would fall over itself to implement.

And yet the system has yet to be adopted by a league that calls Guskiewicz its expert in the field. Eight NFL teams reportedly planned to use the HIT system in 2010 before it fell through at the last moment. Two years later, the technology remains unused.
-nfl.com
posted by cashman at 4:13 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unless the helmets are made comically large...

This is the type of fearless problem solving I'd like to seem more of around here. Have a presentation on my desk first thing in the morning. The rest of you are fired.

(If I were NFL commissioner)
posted by billyfleetwood at 4:45 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


antonymous: "I know it's slightly off-topic, but I'm actually excited that the NFL is going to allow more of the "all-22" camera footage (which is similar to the behind-the-QB-view in Madden) to be used in broadcasts. I think it will allow the more casual observers to enjoy the game, and maybe (very small maybe) these fans will be a little more put off by the violence inherent in today's NFL (and therefore be more likely to support changes that reduce these injuries to players). I would like to see the NFL embrace some of the more casual fans, the same way the NBA has done, though I don't think American football will ever have the global appeal of basketball."

Woh?!! Really? Do you know why don't already? And why this has changed?
posted by stratastar at 4:57 PM on July 8, 2012


Unfortunately, one of the things the research is revealing is that a good enough helmet may not be physically possible. When you hit something and decelerate within a certain distance to stopped, you can massage how quickly the G force builds but there's a certain limit to what you can do. Unless the helmets are made comically large it's likely that no helmet redesign could fix the problem with game play unchanged.
Yeah, it's more like a fundamental limit of human anatomy. People just aren't built to take hits like this on a regular basis. Hit the head and the brain is going to wobble around, smacking into the skull. Short of replacing a player's intracranial fluid with some kind of crash foam, I don't see what could be done.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:06 PM on July 8, 2012


I played six years of high school football and three years of Div II college football as an offensive lineman. I was a starter in HS for three years and one year in college. I've played a lot of football.

I've broken my right ankle twice and my right wrist once. Before my senior year in high school I got hit in the right eye so hard it damaged my retina. I lost 90% of my sight and I still pulled it together to make the team.

Before I went off to college my uncle pulled me aside at a family gathering.

"I wake up every morning dealing with a back problem I got playing for (his college team). Be careful. Have fun in college!", he said, slapped me on the shoulder, and was on his way.

By my junior year I became a starter because the guy ahead of me popped a hernia. By that time I was the final OL from my peers in freshman football camp. All the other O linemen I had practiced and bonded with had to quit the team due to injury, one by one. Blown knees, wrecked lower backs, loose shoulders, and one concussion so spectacular that I remember the sound to this day.

During the second game of the year one of the juco transfer OL went down with a knee injury. I heard him yelp as he went down. As I watched him get carried off the field, I had an epiphany which was: "What the HELL am I doing?" I was like the poor soul in the war movie who turns around to realize a sniper has taken everyone else out.

No, a better analogy would be "the cop who won't stop talking about being a week from retirement". Having this realization on the 45 yd line in the middle of the 3rd quarter is not really ideal. I spent the rest of the time with my mind racing during every single play - is that the sound of me about to be blindsided? Is that the pocket collapsing towards my knee?

I made it through and after the game it took two trips to clean out my locker. I called the coach the next day (too scared to do it in person) and quit. I had to have a lot of really awkward conversations after that but I still think I got off lucky.

My son is four and hardly knows of the NFL. I'm purposefully avoiding exposing him to it. We go and do whatever, just him and I.

Fall is really beautiful, you know. I guess I never noticed.
posted by unixrat at 5:18 PM on July 8, 2012 [54 favorites]




Here is an article about the research I mentioned above.

Another one.

Last I heard they were struggling to get funding to continue. Since football is a voluntary activity NIH is not interested in funding the research. The helmet companies and NFL don't really want to know the answers, so they aren't offering to fund it either.
posted by COD at 7:26 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


A couple of years ago, Lewis's son, then 6, took up his father's sport. He played tight end and nose guard on a team that won a championship.

"At the end of the season," Lewis says, "I asked him if he was going to play again, and he said no. I [asked] why, and he said, 'I keep getting headaches, and I get tired of getting headaches.' When he said that, I was like, no problem."
A six-year-old who has chronic headaches from the game is a sign football's time has come and gone.
posted by gingerest at 7:59 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]




Imagine the southern states being told that high school football is too dangerous and needs to be done away with.


There is a member of the school board, in my hometown, who brings up this issue quite often, showing the lifelong effects of repeated collisions, not even injuries, just collisions, on football players.

He is pretty much ignored on the issue. He has stated, time and again, that the school should not be involved in sponsoring collision football. I hope, soon, that the other members, and the local parents, start agreeing with him.
posted by SuzySmith at 9:25 PM on July 8, 2012


Once parents start suing schools over their brain damaged kids, high school football ends.
posted by Renoroc at 3:22 AM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Anyone who thinks 770,000$ for playing a game isn't "overpaid" is clearly living in a totally different reality then me and anyone i actually know.

There's people who risk their body and lives doing meaningful work; i have little sympathy for people who play a game for 3/4ths of a million dollars a year, then cry foul that they have health issues afterwards.
posted by dethb0y at 5:15 AM on July 9, 2012


Anyone who thinks 770,000$ for playing a game isn't "overpaid" is clearly living in a totally different reality then me and anyone i actually know.

How much is it worth to add 25 years to your life expectancy?
posted by localroger at 5:27 AM on July 9, 2012


Let's use rounder numbers.

Would you work for a year for $1,000,000, knowing it shaved 10 years off your life?

What if you didn't know, but the guy that paid you $1,000,000 did?
posted by DigDoug at 6:08 AM on July 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


DigDoug: Would you work for a year for $1,000,000, knowing it shaved 10 years off your life?

Also, you will only hold the position for, on average, three years. And in order to get it, you will have had to forego any meaningful training in any other marketable skill. Is it still sounding enviable?
posted by gilrain at 7:13 AM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


What about big, inflatable helmets, that are soft and couldn't be used like a battering ram? Yes, they might look a little ridiculous, but so what?

Also, the college players are the ones getting mightily screwed. They're sacrificing their neurons and not even getting paid. I would be very happy to see my alma mater walk away from football.
posted by mrhappy at 8:09 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Would you work for a year for $1,000,000, knowing it shaved 10 years off your life?

The interesting version I have heard often recently is guy asks player (e.g. Ted Johnson ex-Patriot superbowler with concussion cognitive issues at age 40): if you knew then what you know now would you still play?

They all say absolutely hell yes.
posted by bukvich at 9:41 AM on July 9, 2012


The interesting version I have heard often recently is guy asks player (e.g. Ted Johnson ex-Patriot superbowler with concussion cognitive issues at age 40):

They all say absolutely hell yes.


What else is a broken man going to say? "Yeah, I guess I made the worst possible choice in hindsight. You know if they're planning any rope-and-stool sales at Home Depot?"

It's not like they've got an alternate life to compare their current situation to.
posted by Dark Messiah at 11:20 AM on July 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh, and would you do that $1,000,000 knowing that your job isn't guaranteed -- not even week to week? (Owners can walk away at any point in a deal and only owe the "guaranteed money," roughly 1/3rd of the salary for the great players... but next to nothing for guys at the bottom of the food chain. Compare to, well, every other sport where a team is on the hook for 100% of the money in a deal.)

And keep in mind most players make the league minimum, which for a rookie in 2012 is $390K.
posted by dw at 11:21 AM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I recall awhile back, I think during the runup to the last olympics, someone asked a lot of athletes "If there were a drug which would guarantee to make you a champion but would also kill you within 5 years, would you take it?" and the vast majority of them said yes.
posted by localroger at 11:46 AM on July 9, 2012


Anyone who thinks 770,000$ for playing a game isn't "overpaid" is clearly living in a totally different reality then me and anyone i actually know.

You should try it down here. We sometimes spend our money on frivolous stuff that brings us joy, without turning everything into a grimly moralizing utilitarian calculus.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:28 PM on July 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


i have little sympathy for people who play a game for 3/4ths of a million dollars a year, then cry foul that they have health issues afterwards.

What about the six-year-olds who play it for fun and have health issues afterwards? You okay with them complaining?

Notwithstanding all the people who play this game outside of the professional sphere, professional athletes are working, same as everyone else, and in the US, "Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees," (29 USC 654, sec 5, emphasis mine). That right can't be abridged by increased salary, and it includes workplaces in the arts, entertainment, and recreation. Employers are obliged to attempt to eliminate hazards or reduce exposures before requiring that employees rely exclusively on personal protective equipment.
posted by gingerest at 8:00 PM on July 9, 2012




I saw the first episode of Friday Night lights for the first time this week. In the first couple minutes of the show there's a drill where a player is tackled by the team in all directions as a punishment for coming to practice drunk. It is shown as something positive, to set the coach as tough guy who cares and the importance of teamwork in that small group. It's the key scene of the show opening.

I couldn't help but think they would never air this scene today (starts at 2:20). Maybe I'm wrong, but with what we know now, it's ridiculously brutal.
posted by falameufilho at 8:06 AM on July 10, 2012


The Paris Review: Time Out
My second serious concussion came in my junior year at Weber State University, during a home game against Humboldt State. We were up big in the fourth quarter, but, instead of “protecting myself” as I’d been coached, I went full-Elway in a scramble toward the end zone, diving over a defender just as I was hit from the side and helicoptering down to the one-inch line. I handed the ball off to our fullback the next play, and, after he scored, walked to the sideline where the trainers flocked to check me out. Of course I was all right, I said, “Thith game ith outh to looth.”
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:32 PM on July 10, 2012


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