Right now the biggest news in the NFL is the death of legendary LB Junior Seau and the massive amount of lawsuits by former players who feel they were deceived by the NFL regarding their brain injuries. Seau joins former Chicago Bears DB Dave Duerson, who also had brain-degenerative issues leading to an eerily similar suicide. Rarely, if ever, do men shoot themselves in the chest in a firearm related suicide. Normally this suicidal pattern is consistent with women. Although grisly, the location of the shot is a very important facet in forensic research.The fact that both players did so with the conscious desire to have their brains researched opens a terrifying chapter in both the neurological fields and the gridiron itself.
The first issue at hand is the torrent of lawsuits cited by former players who feel they were misguided by doctors and medical research. During the time that most of these players took the field, the defining principles of a concussion were not as well known, therefore diagnosis and treatments were harder to formulate. As a former receiver (a split out tight end to be exact) I know what dangers lie for offensive skill players. Many routes I ran were across the middle through the teeth of the much heavier and stronger linebackers. When a receiver is not subject to a cheap shot from professional dirt such as Pittsburgh Steelers LB James Harrison, they are leaping with reckless abandon, exposing not only their rib cage but their skulls to open field contact. Linebackers and halfbacks have the same issue. Players like Junior Seau met equally bulky runners at the point of attack, often resulting in a massive weight transfer leading to long term brain trauma.
As a former player, and a at-one-point prospective law student, I can see both sides of the issue. In fact, there are three sides. There are the former players, the NFL, and the current players, and they are all unhappy right now. There are three motions that must be passed by the NFL in order to bring this mess to an end. Obviously in a mass lawsuit like this, each individual retiree cannot hope to be addressed. The easy solution here is a negotiation and an unbiased settlement.
From there the NFL needs to make clear its commitment to player safety. However, players like Atlanta Falcons WR Roddy White are vehemently disconcerted with both the former players and the commissioners office relenting to them. On one hand there are a rash of brain injuries and residual suicides, while on the other the well-being of the game and its financial fortitude are at risk. The former players fear more bloodshed while the current players are afraid of losing the popularity of their game.
To be fair, football players know that each time they strap their helmets on they are risking their lives, or at the very least a few bones. The concussions may not have been as well-known, but it is a fact that blunt force trauma to the head is a given each time a player makes a hit. Withstanding any rule changes, the NFL should make it clear to their current players that they are risking an untimely death on the field, and give them the option to either sign a waiver or retire with severance. The only way to alleviate these concerns is to both settle with the retired players and make it evident to the current ones that the NFL cannot risk its fiscal profitability for something that the current players are aware of and refuse to take heed.
Filed under: NFL