Hey NFL, Do You Have to Pay $100 Million to Harvard to Know That Your Sport is Dangerous?
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Hey NFL, Do You Have to Pay $100 Million to Harvard to Know That Your Sport is Dangerous?

By Richard Console on January 29, 2013

The National Football League is reportedly in negotiations with Harvard University to conduct a 10-year study into the long-term effects of player injuries and to develop better treatment options for them.  Harvard could receive as much as $100,000,000 from the NFL to fund the effort, according to CNN Health. This study, on the heels of more than 80 concussion-related lawsuits filed by former players, seeks to examine the host of complications players can develop from the neck down, as well as the neck up. My question: how has no one studied this before? Is the NFL just now realizing that many of its players lead lives after their careers with health conditions similar to those of car-crash victims?

Concussions are Sexy, Knee Caps are Boring

Player brains have received the lion’s share of media coverage in recent months due to the high-profile suicides of ex-players suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. The degenerative condition, caused by repeated blows to the head, displays symptoms similar to dementia. CTE is one of the most serious consequences of a hard-hitting NFL career, but it’s not the only one. Damage to the rest of the body can be just as debilitating.

Many believe a torn knee ligament is an easy fix with surgery and months of physical therapy, which might be true, if the ligament wasn’t attached to the leg of a running back. Patch him up; get him back on the field. Players with ligament replacements or repairs can develop arthritis and may require total joint replacements later in life, according to CNN Health. Harvard’s study looks to develop treatment plans that can preserve quality of life for retiring players and keep those currently in the game as healthy as possible.

Big Hits are Televised Car Accidents in the NFL 

Harvard’s proposed study reportedly plans to examine 100 ‘unhealthy’ players, current and retired, and 100 ‘healthy’ players. They want to determine the factors that predispose some players to long-term health problems and exempt others. Researchers and NFL officials should take a look at the average car crash that results in injuries. In my experience as a personal injury attorney, no two people sustain quite the same type of physical damage in similar accidents. Where one person might be unaffected by a rear-end collision, another could suffer a herniated disc. So many factors are at play, from the age of the victim to the speed of vehicles involved.

Forces impacting NFL players on every down are similar to the strains exerted on the human body in a motor vehicle accident. A linebacker with 10 tackles in a game could be said to have endured 10 frontal impacts. That’s not counting all the times a 350-pound lineman blocked him off the ball. The NFL can’t be hinting, by funding Harvard’s study, that they’re not fully aware of the physical consequences of the game, could they? Are they not watching the same game as I am on Sunday?

We love this game for its high degree of difficulty, for its violence, and rich history. We don’t tell car crash victims that they ‘knew what they were getting into’ when they sat down in the driver’s seat. Being a professional athlete might be a privilege, but it’s by no means risk free – let’s not pretend otherwise.

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