Free National Football League: Responsible For Medical Costs Of Concussions After Retirement? Argumentative Essay Example
On November 27, 1991, seventeen year old high school football player died as a result of swelling in his brain as a result of a brutal hit he endured on the helmet during a normal tackle. The doctors later concluded that the fatal injury was caused by a strong blow to his head that he had been the recipient of the prior week. However, because the boy did not lose consciousness, he was not diagnosed and treated for a concussion (Science News,, 1991, p. 365). As he most aggressive contact sport, football requires participants to run fast, move laterally, and stop the opponent who is of equal or greater size from gaining any yards forward, thereby exponentially increasing the likelihood that those who play football get injured to varying degrees (Lipsky, 2008). It is no secret that several professional football players quickly lose their millions of dollars saved throughout the duration of their professional careers and end up broke and sick as a result of the litany of concussions they suffered when they played competitively (Casson & Viano, 2010). Indeed, these retired football athletes are disproportionately more likely to develop major depression than the fans that cheer them on as a result of gridiron dementia, which is the most common form of brain injury sustained by NFL players after retirement. Gridiron dementia causes irreversible brain damage as a result of recurring and force blows to an athlete’s head during practices and games throughout an athlete’s amateur and professional career (Omalu, 2008). The National Football League (NFL) has increasingly been scrutinized as a result of the long-term medical consequences of game-related head injuries and hits endured by the players. Sports pundits and medical experts alike have castigated the NFL for how they have addressed this reality as well as the lack of responsibility and consideration given to the safety of the players that yield franchises millions of dollars in profit. Indeed, many people blame the league for the deaths of formers players and stars Jovan Belcher, Junior Seau, Jay Easterling, and O.J. Murdock. Former players have reported that they were debilitated by health issues such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), early onset Alzheimer’s, and difficulty concentrating, thereby detracting from their workplace productivity (Lipsky, 2008).
Despite the overwhelming public support for the NFL to compensate retired players for the onset of a possibly deadly form of dementia, a litany of studies that have circulated public discourses disproves the hyperbolic claims regarding the severity and prevalence of gridiron dementia. Indeed, NFL commissioner Roger Goddell has time and again asserted that “The studies show that if you play football, and in the NFL, that you actually live a longer life than the average male citizen who didn't play football." (Goddell, as cited by Venables, 2013). Moreover, new and improved safety measures for America’s NFL stars, and studies examining retired players have concluded that only twenty five percent of them demonstrated signifiers of brain trauma (Venables, 2013). *The NFL should not be held responsible for payment to players after retirement despite the litany of studies that directly correlate brain trauma suffered during an athlete’s professional career in football with dementia, depression, and ultimately death. Indeed, professional football players, who are educated on the risks that playing in professional football entails, so they cannot blame management for the mental and physical deterioration of retired players. Improved safety measures and protocols have been implemented that has reduced the severity of brain damage that develops in the later stages of retired athletes’ lives.
Throughout the past few decades, retired NFL players and their families have time and again blamed the league for the escalating rates of physical and mental disabilities that correlate with concussion frequency. There has also been much speculation that the league has deliberately remained silent on the long-term and adverse consequences that repeated head concussions suffered by athletes on a quotidian basis can cause as a result of wanting to yield higher profits if superstars play through their head injuries. Indeed, the proliferation cases in which the NFL opted to settle litigation rather than go through a lengthy trial suggests that management were cognizant of the risks associated with head hits, yet they failed to act on that knowledge because of the importance of high television ratings and fiscal gains in the present day. As a result of withholding invaluable evidence for profit about the harmful ramifications of repeated concussions, NFL management, players and families argue, should be rendered liable for any loss of life as well as for the compensation for any and all medical care needed to treat the maladies that former NFL players suffer from ().
Rather than compensating these former players for a medical condition or conditions that has simply not be proven to be directly related to the aforementioned maladies, developing safer protections such as more effective and sturdy helmets, restricting a layer’s involvement in games and practices if he endures a certain amount of concussions, and undergoing more extensive medical examinations in order to fully study a player’s overall health and physical condition (Gove, 2011). Adequate padding, certain body braces, and helmets all contribute to decrease the severity of sustained injuries during practice and competitions in order to better protect players when they are hit time and again as well as when unnecessary roughness and other penalties that occur during the game for directly hitting or blocking an opponent above their neck. The evolution of the helmet further underscores why the NFL should continue to improve these safety mechanisms in the future rather than compensate retired players who suffer from illness of some sort that may be attributed to other environmental and/or biological factors. During the twentieth century, football players first utilized leather helmets, but by mid-century, the football helmet evolved and was made out of plastic and covered with padding in the interior (“NFL Helmets,” 2012. The next decade the safety bars on the front of the helmet was added, and by the 1970s helmets further transformed by making them able to absorb energy. Some players, usually running backs, used fully face-masked helmets. In 2004, the NFL constructed a helmet specially designed to mitigate concussions from harming the players. Finally, in 2011, a chinstrap was incorporated onto the helmet in order to detect any and all head trauma (“NFL Helmets,” 2012).
The headlines in sport news regarding stories about former professional football players suffering from a variety of ailments continues to sensationalize this issue that management has tried so hard to hide and functions as propaganda undergirded by monetary motives. More poignantly, a litany of former football players have recently committed suicide, which many people argue was fueled by the physical suffering they endured as a result of playing football for a protracted amount of time (Amen, 2011). However, many people remain skeptical that concussions caused by football are fully to blame for physical and mental maladies that wrack former players later on in their lives. Indeed, they contend that no causal relationship has ever been proven, so the health issues are merely coincidental, and that these players take their own lives for a multitude of reasons. Other reported maladies such as dementia and early onset Alzheimer’s have also been proven to develop in aging men and women. Thus, no direct causality hitherto exists, so the NFL and its affiliates cannot be rendered liable for the aforementioned health problems and maladies (Casson, 2010).
Many of these retired NFL players have filed a class action lawsuit against the league to take responsibility and compensate them for their debilitating conditions as a result of the lack of safety measures implemented to protect their health. However, the NFL has implemented a strict concussion protocol and education program that all teams and players must adhere to. The NFL established after 2011 a protocol for concussions that the league publically “hailed as the most important safety measure ever passed by the league” (Bradley, 2013, p. 1). Although many critics blame the league for its apathy towards medical maladies suffered by retired athletes, the league nonetheless created a neck, head, and back/spine committee that oversaw the enforcement of the most up-to-date concussion protocol (Schwartz, 2009). The management of concussions is quite meticulous in the official concussion protocol contingent on the bellicose nature of the game that it has evolved into. Prior to any competition and/or practice, all of the players are mandated to undergo a standardized test that documents information about the player’s medical history in relation to head trauma caused by migraines, repeated concussions, and any other medical issue that may be correlated with a player’s future medical health and injury status. This baseline Sideline Assessment mandated by the NFL also requires players to answer a checklist and undergo an assessment of their concentration, orientation, balance, and memory retention. It is thus unequivocal that “the [NFL] players undergo more comprehensive neuropsychological testing. These tests will serve as [a]baseline measure to be compared to if a player sustains a head injury” or any form of head trauma (Bradley, 2013, p. 1). If a player gets injured, then concussion assessment commences immediately regardless of whether the player is conscious or not vis-à-vis the aforementioned NFL Sideline Assessment. Thus, the NFL, contrary to popular belief, does prioritize the health and safety of their players by implementing critical mechanisms and protocols rather than merely exploiting the athletes—whom are largely subaltern—for their profitability at the expense of their health and well-being. Standard care is underscored and ensures that athletes function at an optimal level (Jenkins & Maese, 2013). Idiosyncrasies solely exist because of the differential social impact of American football and thus accounts for different standards of care propagated by the National Football League (p. 1). Team organizations are charged with the responsibility to provide medical and health services, so the concussion protocols differ slightly amongst teams but in large part adhere to the standard mandated by NFL management.
As mentioned previously, a slew of former professional football players have experienced acute side effects as a result of the concussions they sustained over a protracted period of time as a result of playing in such a high impact and physically demanded sport (Nowinski, 2006). As the symptoms of concussions become clearer, these former professional football players have in a sense forged an imagined community with other retired NFL players, as they become cognizant of the stark reality that many other players endure the same maladies (Mangels, 2012). These players thus conclude that the etiology of these identical symptoms stems from their shared experiences of playing and enduring the rigors of professional football (Samson, 2011). Such conclusions, however, are circumstantial rather than empirical and scientific in nature.
Discerning the quandary of concussions sustained while playing professional football in relation to the responsibilities of league management in mitigating adverse health consequences has remained a topic of great public and scholarly debate. Individuals who willingly sign up to play professional football unequivocally put themselves at risk for incurring physical injury quite often (Jenkins & Maese, 2013). Indeed, the NFL has many methods in place to both address and manage the head injuries that players endure as well as take precautions against the exacerbation of concussion consequences. The league not only educates the players about the possible head injuries they might get, including how to circumvent serious problems later on in their lives, how to diagnose them, and the treatment options available to them. Compensating retired NFL players seems far-fetched since there are no studies that prove that there is a direct correlation between brain trauma and the onset of neurological deterioration and/or heightened depression that sometimes results in suicide.
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