In the wake of the death of Junior Seau and scores of concussion-related lawsuits by former players and their families against the NFL, a range of confusing and contradictory messages continue to be communicated from all sides. Unsurprisingly, it is taking a veritable league of attorneys and medical experts to sort things out as many of the suits are shifted up to federal court.
At issue is whether the National Football League knowingly misrepresented and misled players regarding the dangers and risks associated with concussions, in light of recent studies on the correlation between repeated blows to the head and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease discovered in the brains of former NFL players. 1,500 (and growing) NFL pensioners are crying ‘foul’. The league and its owners are communicating concern while indicating they too were in the dark until medical science indicated issues only recently.
Perhaps most concerning, though, is what is coming out of the mouths of current players. This week in a Detroit News story by Bob Wojnowski, Detroit Lions rookie Travis Lewis characterized one particularly wicked hit that fellow rookie Ronnell Lewis had put on another player in college as follows: “If you’ve ever seen a roach or something with its leg cut off and trying to wobble around — the guy tried to get up and fell. He tried to work his way to the huddle and he fell again. Concussions are never funny, but being on the opposite team and witnessing that, it was pretty hilarious, I’m not gonna lie.”
In an earlier but recent week, eleven-year Lions starter Dominick Raiola indicated to reporters that he’s ready for whatever physical ailments are in store when his playing career is done: “It’s totally worth it…when you sign up for this job, you know what you’re getting in to. Whatever happens is going to happen, whether it be short-term memory loss. Those are all the rigors of this job.”
And while it is not surprising for young, healthy, famous millionaires to move through their careers with feelings of indestructability, perhaps a new mindset needs to be communicated by these larger than life ‘role models’ to the next generation: That inflicting injury should not be a part of the game. That winning via bounties and vicious hits is wrong. That they can be a part of the solution, not just an tragic benefactor of its ills.