By Mac Moore
The first class action lawsuit for concussions has been settled by the NFL. According to NFL.com, the magic number is $765 million. The number is miniscule compared to the leagues $9 billion revenue. It also came at the price of knowing what the NFL knew about concussions and when it knew it. The league’s less than forthcoming nature about the risk of concussions was a huge component of the case.
The lawsuit patched up a problem that threatens the most profitable sports organization in the world. For now they seem fine. But just like our knowledge of brain trauma, the subject is too complex for us to know all the complications from a glance.
On Oct. 4, 17-year-old Shawnee Mission West High School football player Andre Maloney suffered a stroke during their Thursday night game against Leavenworth High School. Local Fox 4 News reported that he was taken to the Research Medical Center in Kansas City, MO. He died the next day. Maloney was committed to play for the University of Kansas football team next fall.
None of the reports indicate that a hit had anything to do with Maloney’s stroke. The incident has not been connected to concussions in early reports, but it has created an initial concern for what role football had in this brain related death. It’s the natural connection that we make when tragedy strikes on the field.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a concussion can occur when a brain is forced to slide back and forth forcefully against the inner wall of your skull. It is the acceleration or deceleration of the head that shifts the brain, which doesn’t necessarily require a blow to the head.
A 2011 study from the Taipei Medical University showed a connection between patients with a traumatic brain injury and future strokes. They indicate the need of more intensive medical monitoring to corroborate the link.
That is the point though. The brain is such a complex organ; there are still so many unknowns. Football players need the most up to date information on the effects this game will have on them. Any football organization, from the NFL all the way down to pee-wee, will be held accountable if they don’t inform the players of all available information and protect the players in every way possible.
The NFL has the lawyers and the money to afford lawsuits. High schools and colleges don’t have that luxury. USA Today reported in March 2012 that a San Diego-area school district paid a $4.4 million settlement to former high school player whose head injury requires him to communicate through a keyboard. This is one of many football related brain trauma cases that have been filed around the country.
High schools won’t put up with million dollar lawsuits for very long. Football is too high of a liability for poor districts to continue to field teams. Fear of ligation is not the only problem. As parents continue to see multiple instances of brain injuries and the long term effects of football, fewer kids will get their parents’ permission to play. The depth charts will diminish.
Colleges won’t know what to do as the talent pools dry up. Smaller colleges that face the same financial limitations will also ask themselves if football is worth the risk. The NCAA will wonder what in the world to do, as they attempt to carry the financial burden.
The NCAA is currently facing a similar case to the NFL’s concussion lawsuit, and its outcome may set the true precedent for concussion cases that the NFL avoided in their settlement. The NFL must feel like they dodged a bullet with the concussion case. The problem is they might want to look at who was standing behind them.
Contact Mac Moore, sports editor, email@example.com.