NFL does not care about player safety

In Opinion
Instead of using players as pawns to turn a profit, the NFL needs to start addressing the medical issues plaguing its players. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

With heads colliding, bodies flying and 11 individuals fighting to make their respective team and city proud, it’s no wonder that football is the most popular sport in America.

While die-hard fans, tailgates, trash-talking and booze show up to every game, concern for the safety of those risking their well-being for America’s entertainment is lacking.

The National Football League needs to start prioritizing the overall health of players instead of using them as pawns in a money-making machine. There is a huge flaw within the NFL that it is not being addressed, the unavoidable constant collisions to the heads of players.

With a sample of 202 brains from deceased football players, 177 of them had been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

CTE is a progressive degenerative disease caused by repetitive brain trauma. Symptoms of this disease can include depression, anxiety, suicidality, parkinsonism and progressive dementia among others, according to the CTE Center’s website, an independent academic research center.

Of those who played in the NFL, 110 of 111 were diagnosed with CTE. This is concerning as the NFL doesn’t seem to be addressing the specific traumas that come with CTE. Instead, the NFL glosses over the facts and uses the fight against concussions as a distraction.

Fans and the NFL believe that a concussion is the same as CTE, but the distinction between the two is integral in fixing this problem.

“Concussion is an injury that occurs due to some type of force being transmitted to the head. So it is not direct contact. It could be indirect contact such as falling and that force being delivered toward the brain,” said assistant professor of kinesiology Tricia Kasamatsu, Ph.D.

This type of head injury is treated as a major health hazard, but less than 10 percent of those who are diagnosed with a concussion experience long-lasting symptoms.

“Obviously, concussions can contribute to CTE but what we are learning about CTE is that you can have an entire sporting career without a concussion and still develop CTE,” said professor of kinesiology Steve Walk.

Anyone who’s participated in contact sports could be in danger of being diagnosed with CTE. The NFL promotes collisions between players as entertainment and it is wrongly putting players at risk.

Instead of admitting CTE is a major problem plaguing the sport, the NFL tries to shift its focus toward fighting concussions and downplaying CTE.

“The one thing that is happening right now is that a lot of people are focused on concussions and developing protocols to treat concussions. That is great, I am absolutely in support of those things, but having concussion protocols doesn’t get at the issue of CTE,” Walk said. “And I think it may actually in some ways be a distraction from CTE.”

Since repeated blows to the head are uncontrollable factors that lead to CTE, there is no way to protect against hits. The protection equipment provided is slim to none.

“There is no specific equipment that has been demonstrated to reduce all risk of concussion. Much like any participation in sport or recreational activities, we can’t eliminate the risk of any injury in general,” Kasamatsu said.

To prevent further harm to contact sport players, all organizations that advocate recklessness should put the health and safety of players ahead of profit.

The NFL needs to admit CTE is linked to football and stop using concussions as a distraction.

If the NFL and related contact sports organizations are not going to take a stand for players, the youth and high school programs need to. Maybe then, the selfish businessmen will take note.

Until organizations take a stand for players, the only thing to do is be aware of these integral difference in types of injuries and keep the discussion productive and moving forward.

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