Last week D’Allesandro of the Star-Ledger wrote a harsh and provoking article on the health of the NFL players.
This, along with many recent articles that have surfaced in the last 2 weeks (in conjunction with the current CBA impasse), makes us seriously question morally whether we as fans should be demanding this product anymore. It’s not just football. The spotlight has been shown on hockey recently, with Probert and the recent dirty hit by Chara. The NHL has turned a blind eye to the physical abuse.
The fact that the average NFL life expectancy is 53 is staggering, given the the average American male life expectancy is 75. Many former players live/d in basic isolation unable to express and communicate their severe debilitating mental condition. With the death of players like Mike Webster and the suicide of Dave Duerson, more and more information about player health after football is coming to light. They are/were conditioned to play with pain and sacrifice for the team for many years. They’re conditioned in life to shrug off and deal with whatever there ailment is. Many have turned to abusing pain killers prescribed during their playing years. In essence, this is analogous to the Roman Coliseum with gladiators fighting lions etc. We, as fans, are promoting and supporting a product that has severe consequences on the long term health of human beings.
Ken Dryden of the Globe and Mail looks to “the voices of the future (who) will not be kind to us about how we understood and dealt with head injuries in sports. They will ask: How is it possible we didn’t know, or chose not to know?” Is it because we are in denial and don’t wish to change the game which ”itself is “pure” and must remain that way?” We also “choose to ignore the fact that the “nature” of the game has in fact changed over the years. In the 1980s the average offensive lineman was approximately 260 lbs. versus today’s average of 312 lbs. Athletes are conditioned year round and undergone advanced sports training to achieve speed and power to increase the violence of collisions. Shouldn’t we, as fans, start to question our sense of responsibility? A recent radio interview by Bill Simmons of ESPN with a concussion expert, Chris Nowinski, discussed how there has been a significant increase in brain donation applications by families of professional NHL players and NFL players. There is now more awareness. The medical profession will continue to put more pressure on the NFL to address this issue. Dave Duerson was directly involved as a representative of the NFLPA with the long term health of retired NFL players. His understanding and sacrifice makes him a hero to many .
Even if we continue to support the current NFL it will not be the same league in 5-10 years from now. Our collective conscience has been moved. We understand that major efforts must be made to curtail the suffering of the players, who are literally putting their lives on the line.