In a new book published recently called “League of Denial”, the NFL is accused of something that former players have been accusing it of for years: the League knew about the dangers of concussions and tried to cover it up. The author states that the NFL launched a campaign spanning over two decades with the goal of denying the growing scientific research between concussions in football and brain damage. The NFL reportedly “used its power and resources to discredit independent scientists and their work; that the league cited research data that minimized the dangers of concussions while emphasizing the league’s own flawed research; and that league executives employed an aggressive public relations strategy designed to keep the public unaware of what league executives really knew about the effects of playing the game.” The book goes on to cite many other specific cases of evidence throughout this time period, but the theme remains the same.
So what do we do now? After seeing several former NFL players commit suicide due to brain damage, a $765 million settlement for concussion related lawsuits, and controversial rule changes coming every year, it seems to be that the future of the NFL as we know it is in doubt. You have a sport that is fundamentally based on tackling hitting people constantly for 3 hours. If you keep it that way, the injuries and brain damage are going to continue to be an issue, but if you change it then it becomes flag football essentially. There really isn’t an easy solution here.
I first started watching football in 2003, and I can only dream of the days back then before there were all these rule changes that ruined the game and heavily favored the offense. At the same time, the reality is that when football was most popular with the fans (popularity peaked in 2007 and has declined each year since), it was also the most dangerous to the players. You are already seeing the impact this having today. Parents won’t let their kids play football, high school athletes won’t play college football, and college players decide to pursue a degree rather than go to the NFL. As sad as it is, as unpopular as it is, and despite how much I hate saying this, it might be time to put an end to the NFL as we know it. Players lives are at stake, and there is no price tag worth paying to lose half of your potential life after retirement.
As a fan, I have already tried making the transition to others sports. Once a die-hard Patriots and NFL fan in general, it’s just hard to watch these days. It is a completely different game, and the offensive statistics are inflated, tainting records. And yet concussions are still a huge problem with no solution other than to just stop playing. I don’t know what the future holds for the NFL, but it is no longer the game I once loved, and if that means saving a potential player’s life, then I am more than satisfied to find other entertainment.
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