Makingfootball safer Ever since its’ introduction into theAmerican populace, football has become one of the most popular sports inAmerica. With every last moment coming down to the final quarter, anything ispoised to happen. Players are put up against each other to test their will andmight, are given simple tasks on both sides of the ball: either stop theopposition from scoring touchdowns or score as many touchdowns as possible toseal victory. As the sport’s popularity increases, the risk of injury hasgreatened as football has become a more dangerous sport to play. There has notbeen single football season where a player has not been out for a period timewith head related injuries, as most of the devastating injuries befallingplayers 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 ittheir goal to create better equipment to better protect their players, however,there have been an increase of head injuries each season, which calls forspeculation of faulty-mal-manufactured equipment.
The NFL obviously sees thisproblem, but are reluctant to comment, or do anything on the matter in fearingof a decline from a business standpoint, and it can be noted that whenever aclaim, that is backed by evidence IS made, NFL executives call the informationpresented “fraudulent”. However, one must still take into account that theseinjuries are real problems, as past players have come out to share the problemsthey have had after they had retired. Some dealing with depression, othershaving suicidal thoughts, all caused by CTE, which is a neurodegenerativedisease that is the product of repeated blows to the head. It is for thisreason that the NFL should increase their funding in creatingbetter-manufactured equipment, built to withstand these monstrous blows, and tooverall create a safer environment for current players, and for players in thefuture.
As I stated before, this subject of players’safety has been juggled around the league, and various researchers have puttime and effort into examining the reasoning of this increase of playersinjuries to the head. As I have stated before with recent claims,with all theseproblems arising in the league with player safety, I give reasons as to whyplayers should be better equipped to play the game, and gave reasons as to whythe NFL should increase their funding into player equipment as a whole, and Ieven went about giving a way the NFL could do this. I made my point clear: TheNFL should increase their funds in player equipment while decreasing funds inthings that are not as important to the game of football as whole, businesswise. That way, the NFL is not losing funds entirely, and are able to put moneyinto matters that they feel are important. While I was conducting my secondaryresearch in order to complete my report, it was clear to see whether theprevious research done on this topic was sufficient enough to cover all aspectsof players safety. The research I had found gave definitions of the specificproblems that players were dealing with, such as depression, and suicidalthoughts, and gave reasons as to why the NFL chooses not to be involved in theresearch these organizations are conducting. However, in the research I hadconducted, none questioned what the NFL could do fund-wise to help alleviatethe situation. Even though the previous research gave sound examples of themethods of how players could be safer on the field, and also gave examples ofthe certain troubles past players had, they did not mention anything thatthe NFL could do in relation to funds that could help improve player safety.
Itis for this reason that I decided to delve into further research as to whetheror not increased funding for the improvement of NFL equipment would be acceptedby the football populace. CTE,as described before, is a neurodegenerative disease that results from repeatedblows to the head, common in football players and boxers. Symptoms include,dementia, memory loss, confusion, and mood swings.
During CTE, a protein calledTau forms clumps which spread throughout the brain, killing important braincells used to keep memory, and other functions of the brain in tact. The personwho is responsible for discovering this is Bennet Omalu, a nigerian doctor whowas conducting an autopsy on deceased a Mike Webster, a retired football playerwho died unexpectedly after battling depression, suicidal thoughts, and drugabuse. At first, Omalu didn’t notice anything remotely wrong with Webster’sbrain, but with more tests he was able to find an accumulation of the tauprotein in the tissue of Webster’s brain that contribute to the symptoms he hadbefore he died.
Omalu had weighed his options on his findings, and he came tothe conclusion that he should show his discoveries to the public. He publishedhis findings in the journal Neurosurgery in 2005:…autopsy confirmed thepresence of coronary atherosclerotic disease with dilated cardiomyopathy. Thebrain demonstrated no cortical atrophy, cortical contusion, hemorrhage, orinfarcts. The substantia nigra revealed mild pallor with mild dropout ofpigmented neurons.
There was mild neuronal dropout in the frontal, parietal,and temporal neocortex. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy was evident with manydiffuse amyloid plaques as well as sparse neurofibrillary tangles andtau-positive neuritic threads in neocortical areas (Figure 1). There were noneurofibrillary tangles or neuropil threads in the hippocampus or entorhinalcortex. Lewy bodies were absent. The apolipoprotein E genotype was E3/E3…(Omalu Neurosurgery 1).(Figure 1) Photo taken from theSmithsonian, Source: Boston University Center for the Study of TraumaticEncephalopathy but soon after the NFL shutdown anyclaims he had, and denied that his discoveries were valid, and with this theyordered him to remove his section in the journal.
It took several years ofincreasing concussions, and other head related injuries for the NFL to cometogether as a unit and conclude that CTE is a problem. To combat this problemthe proposed to the league that players would be fined, and suspended if therewas 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 headextensive contact would result in one of those ramification. In 2013 theylaunched 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 moreuncovering of CTE than ever before, rising around 58% of players across theleague developing concussions like symptoms. Adjusting the rules, suspendingplayers, and handing out fines are not going to help the cause, because it istaking away the identity of what football really is, and it makes it harder forfootball players to make plays to help their team win games; these rules alsodon’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 tofocus on what DOES have to do with split second contact, which is what theplayers wear to protect themselves, and improving how the equipment is made,produced and vendored to teams, backed by technology and research done byresearch agencies is a way to make a safer environment for players, and in away it could give closure to the retired players that are suffering from braininjuries alike.
There have been retired players who have come out and claimedthat they were filing lawsuits against the NFL for their “neglect”‘ of theirlives after football, and their lack of support. In order for newly reimbursedcommissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL as a whole to keep their industry andtheir bottomline from falling through the floor, they need to step up, andcomply with these retired players, and start to fund better equipment forplayers now, and players of the future. Recently,there was reports of “extensive” CTE found in Aaron Hernandez, former footballplayer for the New England Patriots, who was convicted of killing Odin Lloyd in2013.
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 hisformix, and his enlarged ventricles, in order to make up for this loss of braincells (Figure 2). (Figure2, taken from NY Daily News.
Brain of Aaron Hernandez).The research I haveconducted on this subject has two stages: primary research and secondaryresearch. For my primary research, I created a few questions and went aroundcampus and asked about this particular subject.
This way, I would get responsesthat were educated enough to aid my research, and I would get an overview ofpeople who are familiar with this topic. For my secondary research, I felt itwas right to research different cases of players who have either retired ordeceased due to head related injuries sustained in the NFL, and in doing so, Iwould also research the certain diseases these players came down with postfootball. I found this information through academic articles found through thePurdue Library Database website. There was a total of 4 articles that I foundthat gave me insight into player injuries, as well as what past players havegone through pertaining to their post-football struggles. I was able to uncoverthat 100% of deceased players brains that have been studied have shown signs ofCTE,. I was also able to see the efforts of researchers and organizations,specifically the Boston University School and Medicine, and the Sports LegacyInstitute. Each of the sources I have researched has helped me understand mysubject better, and I was able to find facts that could help support myargument.
In my primary research, I went around Purduecampus asking around to see if students were aware of the problems that arefacing the NFL today, and if they watched NFL football in general. I was ableto obtain around 10 answers from 10 students, all with a clear consensus of”yes” amongst the students. I then asked if increasing funding in playersequipment was a good idea, starting with small amounts, and then fundingincreasing over time, and the students all said “yes” as well. I then asked ifit was a good idea for them to come out and admit that they needed help fromother certified sources, like research agencies prepped for this kind of researchwith the brain, rather than run their own independent effort to scope out thespecific 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 saidyes as well. With this information I was able to draw an opinion on theresearch I was conducting, and I was able to find people individuals who hadthe same opinions. Though this information could be benficial,reasons as to why the NFL are reluctant to take responsibility for retiredplayers who have come out to press their problems with bothersome problems theystill have as a result of playing football.
In fact, the NFL has subsequentlydenied any possible ties to retired players who deal with CTE and other symptomsthat come with neurodegeneration. Thomas M. Best, and Chad A.
Asplund explainthat the NFL is reluctant to come clean when it comes to retired players and ordeceased players who have had signs of CTE, because they are wary that it mightaffect their business in any way shape or form (Best and Asplund 1). Thoughthrough my secondary research, I have found 3 main reasons as to why anincrease in funding for players safety equipment could ultimately stop thesesituations from multiplying more than they already have. The first reason why increasing funds in NFLplayer equipment is a good option, is that it will encourage a gateway ofbetter equipment technology for future games years on out. In this scenario,the NFL would have already been convinced to increase funding, which wouldstart the production of this new age equipment. However, with this newproduction of equipment, the helmet should be the emphasis.
With 99% ofplayers, who have died or currently playing, showing signs of CTE in their brains,an increase in funding into players equipment would improve the future ofplayers now, and then, knowing that they will have a lesser chance of beingaffected by diseases such as these, resting assured that they may not havetheir mental health tampered with as well at the cause of big hits. Companieslike 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 demandof better safer equipment over the past few years, the NFL has done little helpincrease awareness about players who have dealt with serious injuries in thepast, only adding more padding and bulking up shoulder pads, thigh pads, whilenot devoting time into the causes of these specific damages. There is also alack of protocol when it comes players equipment.
There should be specifictests that this equipment should go through to make sure that is game-worthy.Overall, the NFL should have more consideration for possible outcomes thatcould come of putting more effort into designing player equipment. Many havecalled the NFL the “league of denial” because they fail to take responsibilityfor players safety time and time again (Best and Asplund 1). Those who chose totake time to research these problems to see if anything can be done aresubsequently shot down and have arguments dismantled because the NFL believesthat it doesn’t bode well for their business. However, them increasing fundingin players equipment by at least 5% shows that they have listened to thecriticisms and are making steps to increase player safety. Asplund and Besteven echo my proposal when they say: “Protective equipment has also beenstudied, and although most reports have found that helmets don’t reduce theincidence of concussion, recent studies suggest that helmet designs may beeffective.” (Asplund and Best 1).
The second reason that increasing funds inNFL players’ equipment is a good option, is that it will gain back the supportof past players who berate the NFL for not protecting them better when theyplayed. According to Thomas Miller’s “A Late hit for Football Players”,players, like John Harvey, of the past have come out to express their displeasurewith how the NFL has handled their situation with them and other retiredplayers (Miller 1). They blame the NFL for not better protecting them whilethey played, and they believe that is because of their reluctance to act thatthey have taken significant shots to their mental health, and had overall havebrain damage in the first place. Gaining back the support of past players wouldbe beneficial to the NFL, as some of these past players are viewed as legendsin the public eye.
When the football populace sees that more and more playersare coming to express their support for the NFL in their effort to increaseplayer safety, members of the football populace will start to show theirsupport more and more as well. With football consumers who put money intoviewing games each season, it could be damaging to them if they see theirfavorite players go down with a head related injury, in which could prompt themto think of reasons why the NFL has done little to help alleviate thesituation..
Increasing player safety in football could potentially increaseviewership from the football populace. Seeing these violent injuries play outcould be disheartening to these viewers, and if they see that the NFL hasbecome a safer sport because there is an increase of funds in players’equipment, they could be more comfortable watching the sport play out. The NFLdoes receive a resounding amount of money from viewership, and if they loseviewership, they are losing a big portion of their business. Nevertheless, anincrease in funds in players’ equipment could be beneficial in the long runknowing that they will have public support from past players, and viewers. A third reason of why increasing funds inplayers equipment is a good option, is that it will increase and encourageresearch done by smaller organizations that could potentially partner with NFLin the creation of new equipment technology. As stated before, the NFL has shotdown any single allegation that players and other organizations have made pertainingto players who have suffered brain damage. With an increase in funding inplayers equipment, organizations will have more advantage, as they can aid theNFL in discovering the reasons as to why certain players suffered serious braininjuries. These organizations like the SLI (Sports Legacy Institute) also haveCTE scans that pinpoint in what areas of the brain that these past players havethe most damage in, whether it be cranial or cerebral.
This could alsoencourage more insured collaborations between these organizations, which couldpresent alternatives that the NFL and its’ sub-companies can use to betterplayers’ safety equipment. These CTE scans show specific points where the brainhas taken damage, and with these scans, the NFL can see which areas of thehelmet can be re-engineered to better suit the NFL player. In regards to theSports Legacy Institute, it has already been in collaboration with the BostonUniversity School of Medicine in researching the donated brains of pastfootball players who have passed, and in the majority of them: 90%, they foundimplications of CTE (Best and Asplund 1), around the cranium, and cerebralcortex.
Findings like these could aid the NFL in creating better equipment thatsuits the needs of the players. This could be beneficial to the NFL as well, asthese collaborations can spread across different platforms, drawing more andmore support from other organizations as well. Furthermore, these organizationswill not be expecting any form of compensation, as they are non-profit, so theNFL will not have to spend any more money than they have had in terms ofincreasing funding in players equipment. This could also draw support from theplayers who are currently playing in the NFL as well, as they are able toconfirm the areas in which they are injured, as well as being informed thatplaying in games will have an overall safer atmosphere. All of the reasons I have stated are what Ibelieve are in the best interests of the NFL. Unlike other diseases, braindamage has no alternatives, and being damaged in that area could have lifelongeffects on the individual. Increasing awareness about players’ safety as awhole will not only create a safer environment for the players, it willmitigate some of the negative criticisms that are received from outsidesources.
This process has potential to gain the support of the public, with amore important portion of that public being players of the past. With moresupport, the NFL can put this specific plan into action. Fluxing the funds inplayers’ 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 footballgames, one must remember that without the players, the NFL would not beable to function.
Furthermore, that is the reason to create safer environmentsfor the players. Having the players take the majority of the priority couldcreate a level of trust, with these players knowing that they will not have toworry about being seriously injured. The main question that was my goal toanswer was would increase funding in player safety equipment, and through myprimary and secondary research, I was able to fill the gap previous researchhad created, in terms of how much funding should invested into players safetyequipment, and if players safety equipment should have increased investment inthe first place. Through this research I have concluded that the NFL has noreason not to increase funding in players safety equipment. They areresponsible for creating a safe environment for the players to be in, and ifthis environment is not safe, there is no reason to risk life for a game. Myprimary researched helped further my points, as the majority of participantsagreed with the fact that NFL should consider increasing funds in playersequipment, and through my secondary research, I was able to pinpoint possiblereasons as to why these suggestions haven’t taken light. This is the overallbest way to increase public support, and the support of players. In conclusion, this subject of player safetyhas resurfaced and is more prevalent than ever, as well as the general publicshowing their opinions on the matter as well.
Previous research had been doneto better explain the situation that these players were in, however thisresearch did not express views as to how these situations could be alleviatedthrough different methods and ideologies. Through my primary and secondaryresearch, I was able to draw opinions that overall worked in my favor, as I wasable to see how these problems were viewed in the public eye. My secondaryresearch helped bring this subject to a deeper understanding, as I was able tosee viewpoints of this situation through a more educated lens. I have thereforeconcluded that funding should be increased in players equipment, so that itbuilds trust among the community, and so that NFL can become an overall saferenvironment for present players, and players of the future.