Nfl Concussion Litigation Essay

8282 words - 34 pages

On January 31, 2012, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued an order consolidating several lawsuits against the National Football League into one large case of Multidistrict Litigation. All of the lawsuits that have been filed claim “tortious conduct” on the part of the NFL, resulting in neuro-degenerative disease and injury to professional football players. As of January 24, 2013, over 4,500 retired NFL players, more than one-third of players to ever sign an NFL contract, had brought a suit against the NFL concerning the head injuries that they sustained on the field during their playing careers. (Anderson, 1). Given the outstanding popularity of football in the United ...view middle of the document...

(Brandt, 1). In 1912, Pop Warner, a famous football coach whose name is enshrined in youth football through “Pop Warner Football”, said:
“Playing without helmets gives players more confidence, saves their heads from many jolts, and keeps their ears from becoming torn or sore. I do not encourage their use. I have never seen an accident to the head which was serious, but I have many times seen cases when hard bumps on the head so dazed the player receiving them that he lost his memory for a time and had to be removed from the game.” (Anderson, 1).
Coach Warner’s statements reflect the changed perception of medicine in football, and also highlights a key development in football that is arguably both a solution and a problem: the helmet. Coach Warner was referencing merely a leather helmet at the time, but now, “[t]he modern helmet is like a weapon.” (Gove, 656). Due to the fact that players are aware of the protection that helmets provide, for the most part the helmet has now become a sword rather than a shield. This paradox comes to the forefront when considering brain injuries because the modern helmet, while state-of-the-art, at its core only provides protection for the skull, not the brain within it. (Gove, 656).
This problem has not gone unnoticed by the NFL. Over the course of the latter stages of the twentieth century, the NFL has slowly integrated several rule changes that are aimed at improving player safety. In 1962, the NFL initially issued a prohibition on grabbing a player’s facemask. (Gove, 656). In 1977, the NFL prohibited the slapping of another player’s head, known as the “Deacon Jones Rule.” (Gove, 656). Two years after that, in 1979, the NFL prohibited players from using their helmets to “headbutt, spear or ram an opponent,” but that rule didn’t carry the weight and enforcement of a personal foul until 1996. (Gove, 657). Finally, prior to the 2011 season, the NFL made the decision to move kickoffs from the kicking team’s own thirty yard line to the team’s thirty-five yard line. The implied effect of this change sought to increase the frequency of touchbacks, where the kicked balls reach the far end of the endzone, thus decreasing the number of kickoff returns, a play that has historically posed a great threat of collision and career-ending injuries. (Bell, 1). Some have argued that although this is a step in the right direction, these changes “represent an implied admission by the NFL that injuries occur as a direct result of impact to the head,” and that the NFL “did not take these injuries seriously for many years, and still fails to do so.” (Gove, 658).
Despite the game of football’s obvious propensity for a large number of head and brain injuries, the NFL has remained silent and secretive on opinions and figures for quite some time. The first attempt at addressing the issue came in 1994, when then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue convened the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (“MTBI”) Committee. (Gove, 659). That committee...

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