The NFL and Head Injuries: Should the NFL be Held Liable?
Cameron B. Ford
ENG 325 Intermediate Composition
Prof. I. Muhammad
May 12, 2014
The NFL and Head Injuries: Should the NFL be Held Liable?
Head injuries caused by collisions during play in tackle football games can be linked to depression, violent behavior, and occasionally even death in former NFL professionals, one can argue the National Football League is not liable for injuries, behaviors, or death of current or past players as it is well known playing football is a voluntary activity or profession. In addition, it is a well-known fact football is an inherently violent game and there are obvious risks of bodily injury. The injury types associated with playing tackle football are not limited to professional leagues, such as the NFL, but are also inherent in non-professional leagues such as Pop Warner, high school, and college. I assert that the NFL should not be held liable for head injuries, especially long term brain damage, because these injuries are not exclusive to professional level football players and playing the sport is purely voluntary. Football is an inherently violent sport, few will argue against this fact, where there is a true possibility of traumatic bodily and/or brain injury; however, the sport remains one of the most popular among male youth in the country. Since early American history, football has been identified as a sport of physical contact even before it began to be played in colleges in the late 1860’s (Lewis, 1991). The wearing of protective gear on the head and shoulders is just one indication of the violent and physically harsh nature of the game. Equally important, the physically demanding nature of the sport has never been a secret. Advancement in technology of protective gear is always being made in an effort to reduce or eliminate the potential for injuries; from leather shoulder pads and helmets to multi-layered, light weight, padded Kevlar shoulder pads and helmet shells so strong a bullet couldn’t penetrate, yet with enough “give” that the player’s head slows to a stop upon impact rather than a sudden stop, are just a few of the advancements in protective gear that have been introduced over the last several decades. In 2011, the NFL adopted the Ridell 360, the first helmet designed to redirect the energy from frontal impacts away from the head using a facemask attachment system with hinge clips (Venables, 2013). This helmet style is easily recognized on field as the lower facemask connectors is protruding down and away from the player’s face. The violent nature of football has often been reported in the media by spotlighting the negative and extremely rare cases where a child has been killed while playing a sanctioned high school or college league. It is not uncommon during high school football season to see headlines such as, “A Student Killed at Football Camp” or “High School Player Dead from Football Injuries”. Headlines such as these often lead to knee-jerk reactions by parents and activists who will begin campaigning against the continuation of school or other league sponsored football programs. Regardless of these occasional rarities of severe injury or death, those who are knowledgeable about football understand that “violence and bodily risk were constitutional in the appeal of the game” (Harrison, 2014, p. 3). This appeal is often most evident by the spontaneous, seemingly rehearsed, roar of the fans whenever there is a commanding collision between players during the game, resulting in the loud ‘crack’ of bodies, helmets, and pads as they come into forceful contact. Even with the technological advancements in the protective gear, football players continue to be inflicted with head injuries ranging from a simple concussion, to permanent brain injuries, to even death. Again, there is no secret head injuries are prevalent in the NFL, and the NFL Player’s Union is in a suit with the...
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