Making as most of the devastating injuries befalling

                                                          Making
football safer

            Ever since its’ introduction into the
American populace, football has become one of the most popular sports in
America. With every last moment coming down to the final quarter, anything is
poised to happen. Players are put up against each other to test their will and
might, are given simple tasks on both sides of the ball: either stop the
opposition from scoring touchdowns or score as many touchdowns as possible to
seal victory. As the sport’s popularity increases, the risk of injury has
greatened as football has become a more dangerous sport to play. There has not
been single football season where a player has not been out for a period time
with head related injuries, as most of the devastating injuries befalling
players in this day and age are injuries to the head from big hits. Riddell,
the company that manufactures football equipment for the NFL, have made it
their goal to create better equipment to better protect their players, however,
there have been an increase of head injuries each season, which calls for
speculation of faulty-mal-manufactured equipment. The NFL obviously sees this
problem, but are reluctant to comment, or do anything on the matter in fearing
of a decline from a business standpoint, and it can be noted that whenever a
claim, that is backed by evidence IS made, NFL executives call the information
presented “fraudulent”. However, one must still take into account that these
injuries are real problems, as past players have come out to share the problems
they have had after they had retired. Some dealing with depression, others
having suicidal thoughts, all caused by CTE, which is a neurodegenerative
disease that is the product of repeated blows to the head. It is for this
reason that the NFL should increase their funding in creating
better-manufactured equipment, built to withstand these monstrous blows, and to
overall create a safer environment for current players, and for players in the
future.

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            As I stated before, this subject of players’
safety has been juggled around the league, and various researchers have put
time and effort into examining the reasoning of this increase of players
injuries to the head. As I have stated before with recent claims,with all these
problems arising in the league with player safety, I give reasons as to why
players should be better equipped to play the game, and gave reasons as to why
the NFL should increase their funding into player equipment as a whole, and I
even went about giving a way the NFL could do this. I made my point clear: The
NFL should increase their funds in player equipment while decreasing funds in
things that are not as important to the game of football as whole, business
wise. That way, the NFL is not losing funds entirely, and are able to put money
into matters that they feel are important. While I was conducting my secondary
research in order to complete my report, it was clear to see whether the
previous research done on this topic was sufficient enough to cover all aspects
of players safety. The research I had found gave definitions of the specific
problems that players were dealing with, such as depression, and suicidal
thoughts, and gave reasons as to why the NFL chooses not to be involved in the
research these organizations are conducting. However, in the research I had
conducted, none questioned what the NFL could do fund-wise to help alleviate
the situation. Even though the previous research gave sound examples of the
methods of how players could be safer on the field, and also gave examples of
the certain troubles past players had, they did not  mention anything that
the NFL could do in relation to funds that could help improve player safety. It
is for this reason that I decided to delve into further research as to whether
or not increased funding for the improvement of NFL equipment would be accepted
by the football populace.

            CTE,
as described before, is a neurodegenerative disease that results from repeated
blows to the head, common in football players and boxers. Symptoms include,
dementia, memory loss, confusion, and mood swings. During CTE, a protein called
Tau forms clumps which spread throughout the brain, killing important brain
cells used to keep memory, and other functions of the brain in tact. The person
who is responsible for discovering this is Bennet Omalu, a nigerian doctor who
was conducting an autopsy on deceased a Mike Webster, a retired football player
who died unexpectedly after battling depression, suicidal thoughts, and drug
abuse. At first, Omalu didn’t notice anything remotely wrong with Webster’s
brain, but with more tests he was able to find an accumulation of the tau
protein in the tissue of Webster’s brain that contribute to the symptoms he had
before he died. Omalu had weighed his options on his findings, and he came to
the conclusion that he should show his discoveries to the public. He published
his findings in the journal Neurosurgery in 2005:

…autopsy confirmed the
presence of coronary atherosclerotic disease with dilated cardiomyopathy. The
brain demonstrated no cortical atrophy, cortical contusion, hemorrhage, or
infarcts. The substantia nigra revealed mild pallor with mild dropout of
pigmented neurons. There was mild neuronal dropout in the frontal, parietal,
and temporal neocortex. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy was evident with many
diffuse amyloid plaques as well as sparse neurofibrillary tangles and
tau-positive neuritic threads in neocortical areas (Figure 1). There were no
neurofibrillary tangles or neuropil threads in the hippocampus or entorhinal
cortex. Lewy bodies were absent. The apolipoprotein E genotype was E3/E3…
(Omalu Neurosurgery 1).

(Figure 1) Photo taken from the
Smithsonian, Source: Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic
Encephalopathy

            but soon after the NFL shutdown any
claims he had, and denied that his discoveries were valid, and with this they
ordered him to remove his section in the journal. It took several years of
increasing concussions, and other head related injuries for the NFL to come
together as a unit and conclude that CTE is a problem. To combat this problem
the proposed to the league that players would be fined, and suspended if there
was a clear overly-egregious hit that was made. NFL also adjusted the rules,
when playing the game, saying that any hits above the chest, or head to head
extensive contact would result in one of those ramification. In 2013 they
launched a 100 million dollar effort individual effort to help improve safety,
and to lesson concussions that were growing across the league. This, so far,
has not helped the cause, as there has been more cases of concussions and more
uncovering of CTE than ever before, rising around 58% of players across the
league developing concussions like symptoms. Adjusting the rules, suspending
players, and handing out fines are not going to help the cause, because it is
taking away the identity of what football really is, and it makes it harder for
football players to make plays to help their team win games; these rules also
don’t have anything to do with what remotely goes on the field during a tackle,
rather split second contact. To create a safer environment the NFL needs to
focus on what DOES have to do with split second contact, which is what the
players wear to protect themselves, and improving how the equipment is made,
produced and vendored to teams, backed by technology and research done by
research agencies is a way to make a safer environment for players, and in a
way it could give closure to the retired players that are suffering from brain
injuries alike. There have been retired players who have come out and claimed
that they were filing lawsuits against the NFL for their “neglect”‘ of their
lives after football, and their lack of support. In order for newly reimbursed
commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL as a whole to keep their industry and
their bottomline from falling through the floor, they need to step up, and
comply with these retired players, and start to fund better equipment for
players now, and players of the future.   

            Recently,
there was reports of “extensive” CTE found in Aaron Hernandez, former football
player for the New England Patriots, who was convicted of killing Odin Lloyd in
2013. He was serving his life sentence when he hung himself in April 19, 2017.
His autopsy confirmed that he had brain damage, with developing atrophy of his
formix, and his enlarged ventricles, in order to make up for this loss of brain
cells (Figure 2).

           

            (Figure
2, taken from NY Daily News. Brain of Aaron Hernandez).

The research I have
conducted on this subject has two stages: primary research and secondary
research. For my primary research, I created a few questions and went around
campus and asked about this particular subject. This way, I would get responses
that were educated enough to aid my research, and I would get an overview of
people who are familiar with this topic. For my secondary research, I felt it
was right to research different cases of players who have either retired or
deceased due to head related injuries sustained in the NFL, and in doing so, I
would also research the certain diseases these players came down with post
football. I found this information through academic articles found through the
Purdue Library Database website. There was a total of 4 articles that I found
that gave me insight into player injuries, as well as what past players have
gone through pertaining to their post-football struggles. I was able to uncover
that 100% of deceased players brains that have been studied have shown signs of
CTE,. I was also able to see the efforts of researchers and organizations,
specifically the Boston University School and Medicine, and the Sports Legacy
Institute. Each of the sources I have researched has helped me understand my
subject better, and I was able to find facts that could help support my
argument.

            In my primary research, I went around Purdue
campus asking around to see if students were aware of the problems that are
facing the NFL today, and if they watched NFL football in general. I was able
to obtain around 10 answers from 10 students, all with a clear consensus of
“yes” amongst the students. I then asked if increasing funding in players
equipment was a good idea, starting with small amounts, and then funding
increasing over time, and the students all said “yes” as well. I then asked if
it was a good idea for them to come out and admit that they needed help from
other certified sources, like research agencies prepped for this kind of research
with the brain, rather than run their own independent effort to scope out the
specific areas of the brain that needs the most attention when assessing hits,
and different areas of protection that need the most focus, and they all said
yes as well. With this information I was able to draw an opinion on the
research I was conducting, and I was able to find people individuals who had
the same opinions.

            Though this information could be benficial,
reasons as to why the NFL are reluctant to take responsibility for retired
players who have come out to press their problems with bothersome problems they
still have as a result of playing football. In fact, the NFL has subsequently
denied any possible ties to retired players who deal with CTE and other symptoms
that come with neurodegeneration. Thomas M. Best, and Chad A. Asplund explain
that the NFL is reluctant to come clean when it comes to retired players and or
deceased players who have had signs of CTE, because they are wary that it might
affect their business in any way shape or form (Best and Asplund 1). Though
through my secondary research, I have found 3 main reasons as to why an
increase in funding for players safety equipment could ultimately stop these
situations from multiplying more than they already have.

            The first reason why increasing funds in NFL
player equipment is a good option, is that it will encourage a gateway of
better equipment technology for future games years on out. In this scenario,
the NFL would have already been convinced to increase funding, which would
start the production of this new age equipment. However, with this new
production of equipment, the helmet should be the emphasis. With 99% of
players, who have died or currently playing, showing signs of CTE in their brains,
an increase in funding into players equipment would improve the future of
players now, and then, knowing that they will have a lesser chance of being
affected by diseases such as these, resting assured that they may not have
their mental health tampered with as well at the cause of big hits. Companies
like Riddell will work harder to make sure that their equipment is top notch,
knowing that there is higher price tag that the NFL is willing to drop.
Although it is impossible to say that there hasn’t been an increase in demand
of better safer equipment over the past few years, the NFL has done little help
increase awareness about players who have dealt with serious injuries in the
past, only adding more padding and bulking up shoulder pads, thigh pads, while
not devoting time into the causes of these specific damages. There is also a
lack of protocol when it comes players equipment. There should be specific
tests that this equipment should go through to make sure that is game-worthy.
Overall, the NFL should have more consideration for possible outcomes that
could come of putting more effort into designing player equipment. Many have
called the NFL the “league of denial” because they fail to take responsibility
for players safety time and time again (Best and Asplund 1). Those who chose to
take time to research these problems to see if anything can be done are
subsequently shot down and have arguments dismantled because the NFL believes
that it doesn’t bode well for their business. However, them increasing funding
in players equipment by at least 5% shows that they have listened to the
criticisms and are making steps to increase player safety. Asplund and Best
even echo my proposal when they say: “Protective equipment has also been
studied, and although most reports have found that helmets don’t reduce the
incidence of concussion, recent studies suggest that helmet designs may be
effective.” (Asplund and Best 1).

            The second reason that increasing funds in
NFL players’ equipment is a good option, is that it will gain back the support
of past players who berate the NFL for not protecting them better when they
played. According to Thomas Miller’s “A Late hit for Football Players”,
players, like John Harvey, of the past have come out to express their displeasure
with how the NFL has handled their situation with them and other retired
players (Miller 1). They blame the NFL for not better protecting them while
they played, and they believe that is because of their reluctance to act that
they have taken significant shots to their mental health, and had overall have
brain damage in the first place. Gaining back the support of past players would
be beneficial to the NFL, as some of these past players are viewed as legends
in the public eye. When the football populace sees that more and more players
are coming to express their support for the NFL in their effort to increase
player safety, members of the football populace will start to show their
support more and more as well. With football consumers who put money into
viewing games each season, it could be damaging to them if they see their
favorite players go down with a head related injury, in which could prompt them
to think of reasons why the NFL has done little to help alleviate the
situation.. Increasing player safety in football could potentially increase
viewership from the football populace. Seeing these violent injuries play out
could be disheartening to these viewers, and if they see that the NFL has
become a safer sport because there is an increase of funds in players’
equipment, they could be more comfortable watching the sport play out. The NFL
does receive a resounding amount of money from viewership, and if they lose
viewership, they are losing a big portion of their business. Nevertheless, an
increase in funds in players’ equipment could be beneficial in the long run
knowing that they will have public support from past players, and viewers.

            A third reason of why increasing funds in
players equipment is a good option, is that it will increase and encourage
research done by smaller organizations that could potentially partner with NFL
in the creation of new equipment technology. As stated before, the NFL has shot
down any single allegation that players and other organizations have made pertaining
to players who have suffered brain damage. With an increase in funding in
players equipment, organizations will have more advantage, as they can aid the
NFL in discovering the reasons as to why certain players suffered serious brain
injuries. These organizations like the SLI (Sports Legacy Institute) also have
CTE scans that pinpoint in what areas of the brain that these past players have
the most damage in, whether it be cranial or cerebral. This could also
encourage more insured collaborations between these organizations, which could
present alternatives that the NFL and its’ sub-companies can use to better
players’ safety equipment. These CTE scans show specific points where the brain
has taken damage, and with these scans, the NFL can see which areas of the
helmet can be re-engineered to better suit the NFL player. In regards to the
Sports Legacy Institute, it has already been in collaboration with the Boston
University School of Medicine in researching the donated brains of past
football players who have passed, and in the majority of them: 90%, they found
implications of CTE (Best and Asplund 1), around the cranium, and cerebral
cortex. Findings like these could aid the NFL in creating better equipment that
suits the needs of the players. This could be beneficial to the NFL as well, as
these collaborations can spread across different platforms, drawing more and
more support from other organizations as well. Furthermore, these organizations
will not be expecting any form of compensation, as they are non-profit, so the
NFL will not have to spend any more money than they have had in terms of
increasing funding in players equipment. This could also draw support from the
players who are currently playing in the NFL as well, as they are able to
confirm the areas in which they are injured, as well as being informed that
playing in games will have an overall safer atmosphere.

            All of the reasons I have stated are what I
believe are in the best interests of the NFL. Unlike other diseases, brain
damage has no alternatives, and being damaged in that area could have lifelong
effects on the individual. Increasing awareness about players’ safety as a
whole will not only create a safer environment for the players, it will
mitigate some of the negative criticisms that are received from outside
sources. This process has potential to gain the support of the public, with a
more important portion of that public being players of the past. With more
support, the NFL can put this specific plan into action. Fluxing the funds in
players’ equipment by a small margin has little to no disadvantages; however,
the NFL could lose money that could be spent organizing games, referees,
establishing salary caps, though little it may be. When watching football
games, one  must remember that without the players, the NFL would not be
able to function. Furthermore, that is the reason to create safer environments
for the players. Having the players take the majority of the priority could
create a level of trust, with these players knowing that they will not have to
worry about being seriously injured. The main question that was my goal to
answer was would increase funding in player safety equipment, and through my
primary and secondary research, I was able to fill the gap previous research
had created, in terms of how much funding should invested into players safety
equipment, and if players safety equipment should have increased investment in
the first place. Through this research I have concluded that the NFL has no
reason not to increase funding in players safety equipment. They are
responsible for creating a safe environment for the players to be in, and if
this environment is not safe, there is no reason to risk life for a game. My
primary researched helped further my points, as the majority of participants
agreed with the fact that NFL should consider increasing funds in players
equipment, and through my secondary research, I was able to pinpoint possible
reasons as to why these suggestions haven’t taken light. This is the overall
best way to increase public support, and the support of players.

            In conclusion, this subject of player safety
has resurfaced and is more prevalent than ever, as well as the general public
showing their opinions on the matter as well. Previous research had been done
to better explain the situation that these players were in, however this
research did not express views as to how these situations could be alleviated
through different methods and ideologies. Through my primary and secondary
research, I was able to draw opinions that overall worked in my favor, as I was
able to see how these problems were viewed in the public eye. My secondary
research helped bring this subject to a deeper understanding, as I was able to
see viewpoints of this situation through a more educated lens. I have therefore
concluded that funding should be increased in players equipment, so that it
builds trust among the community, and so that NFL can become an overall safer
environment for present players, and players of the future.