One of the main articles I found to be a good source of information concerning the NFL and concussions was a timeline written up by Frontline. The article presents on one side, the independent research done by scientists on concussions in football. Directly opposite of this, Frontline compares the research to public statements made by the NFL concerning concussions and concussion research.
It is rather disturbing the great divide between the clear proof presented by the research teams, and how the NFL responded. Football is a lucrative profession, and the NFL’s best interests are not in player health, but player performance and revenue. The NFL was, and is still, mainly concerned with making the most money possible from players before each one succumbs to injury.
The NFL also misinformed their own players, by forming their own committee. This committee was designed to “investigate” the reports of concussions in the NFL and in the sport of football in general. This committee was a sham, according to many players, and was only in place to withhold data and spread misinformation. In doing so, the NFL profited from glorifying violence, at the cost of the players participating. Many of these players ended up paying with their lives, with severe and continual head traumas leading to depression, dementia, and suicide.
Not only did the NFL deny that concussions resulted in increased risk of further brain damage, but the committee also encouraged junior and senior high organizations to put aside the research being reported. The NFL committee suggested that return to play should come at the discretion of a team physician, saying that it was silly to come up with strict guidelines for possible head trauma. The committee even claimed that NFL players are the result of a selective process which weeds out individuals susceptible to concussions. The NFL is not only playing with the safety of the brains in professional adults, but was also putting thousands of growing brains at risk. Young people are impressionable, and the NFL acted irresponsibly and selfishly.
It isn’t until December of 2009 that the NFL finally publically acknowledges the long-term effects of concussions. This is after nearly 20 years of denying glaring scientific reports that displayed the immediate and long-term effects of concussions in football.
It is hard to believe that the NFL was able to get off nearly scot-free, only having to pay $765 million dollars in damages. In return, the NFL did not have to accept any responsibility. To this day, there is no admission of guilt by the NFL, and still claim any symptoms presented during or after a career were not caused by football.
Luckily, the sport seems to be heading in the right direction, even with the tampering done by the NFL. There have been sweeping rule changes instituted in college and professional football. In the NFL, kickoffs were brought out by five yards in order to decrease the number of high impact collisions. One has to think, though, that the NFL is only making changes in their own self-interest. The healthier a player, the longer a player will stay in the NFL, and make the league more money. I have a hard time believing the league actually cares for the players more than their own wallets. If it were not for the push of the media, and a few brave scientists, there would not have been a shift in the way society has started looking at head injuries. For one, society is now looking at concussions as a serious problem in sports. There is still a lot of work to do and amendments to make in the rulebooks, but it is a start.