Do we care more about the player, or more about the game? NFL concussions

[ By on December 18, 2016 ]

People question whether or not the NFL does enough to promote player safety since so many players suffer from visible and non visible injuries. In addition to broken bones, players get concussion which can lead to long term brain damage. They can lead to “depression, cognitive dysfunction, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.” Knowing what causes these concussions can have on a biological level, why then do we allow players to risk their lives on a daily basis?

Andrew Brandt, a sports lecturer, explained that “The rules are about keeping the most enhanced product possible out there. When you have your star players unavailable [because of injury], you are not only hurting the brand of the specific team, but the brand of the entire NFL. It is something that started years ago with rules added to protect the quarterback and to limit downfield contact on receivers, and now with this harsher application of existing rules about violent hits.” Although improvements have been made, the risk is still extremely high. Is it really ethical to care more about the product on the field than about the person under the helmet? 

Football players playing at a professional level are paid millions of dollars because they undertake a dangerous job. An argument can be made that the higher risk your job, the more you should paid. Why not use the money we spend on athletes and try to make it a safer sport to begin with?

 

http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/tackling-the-concussion-issue-can-the-nfl-protect-both-its-players-and-its-product/

 

 

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8 Comments on “Do we care more about the player, or more about the game? NFL concussions”

  1. jkoffman18

    Concussions for football players is a very complex issue. I think there has been a delay between new, published research about concussions and actions from the NFL. One question that you raise that I find particularly interesting is about where resources are being spent. I think the ethical frameworks offer an interesting insight into how we should be dealing with this bioethical crisis. It seems quite straight forward that both Hume’s ethics and Virtue ethics would both agree that more resources should be spent protecting professional athletes from long-term head injuries. We can understand that the right thing to do seems to protect athletes from devastating injuries. This conclusion can be drawn from thinking about the values that society has taught us, as well as searching within ourselves to evaluate this situation. In practice, it seems much tougher for owners and directors of the NFL to protect players, when there is significant money to be made.

    Maybe it will just take more time for sports team owners to become more aware of the consequences that lay ahead for their player. Luckily, the NFL and NFLPA have started to demand that teams follow the concussion protocol to ensure that concussed players are not playing in games. Starting with the current season, this protocol is being enforced much more strictly.

    http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000676669/article/nfl-nflpa-announce-policy-to-enforce-concussion-protocol

  2. jkoffman18

    The problem with promoting player safety in the NFL is that the primary appeal of football to many of its fans is its violent nature. I was watching a Giants game with my brother last weekend and I took note of how upset he was over a “roughing the passer” penalty. I believe his exact words were, “you get a penalty for breathing too hard on a quarterback nowadays.” My brother is a rational and empathetic human being who does not wish pain on others, but in the context of a football game, he does not want anything to even slightly interfere with the bone crunching intensity of the action. I think it is reasonable to infer that many (if not the majority) of American football fans feel the same way. The average fan believes in player safety in an abstract sense, but does not necessarily want it to interfere with their enjoyment of the the game. I have been thinking a great deal about the ethics of the NFL and I think that the only way to make it acceptable is to make sure that players absolutely understand the risks of playing. Awareness of danger doesn’t technically make the sport any safer, but it does allow players to make an informed decision about whether the long term health effects of playing football are worth it (given the compensation). Of course, I still believe that the NFL should work to make the game safer, I’m just skeptical about whether the game will ever be truly safe. Americans are interested in organized violence, and the NFL is great at satisfying this hunger.

  3. jkoffman18

    There’s an article you might find useful by Amy Davidson a few years ago in The New Yorker. The article itself focuses (initially on Seahawks’ Richard Sherman) on how the media views the so-called “thuggish” behavior of players, and asks: are we football fans the real “thugs” of all, for tacitly condoning a sport that is the source of traumatic brain injuries? Article here: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/02/03/game-change-3

    I often wonder (and I’m a football fan myself) if a few generations from now people will reflect on this game as we moderns do the gladiator rings of ancient Rome — wondering: ‘how could such an advanced society be so barbaric in their entertainment?’

  4. jkoffman18

    The effects of football and concussion need to be examined before the NFL. Check out this eye-opening article:
    http://www.gq.com/story/the-concussion-diaries-high-school-football-cte

  5. jkoffman18

    Hey Julia,

    This is a very complex issues for a number of reasons. At the end of the day, what it comes down to is money and championship aspirations. Although not at the professional or collegiate level, as a former football player myself I can tell you from a first-hand perspective that most coaches and organizations don’t really care about the health or state of an individual player, what they care about is the health/ state of the team as a whole. Unless you’re the best (or a much needed player), your personal benefit/health is none of their concern. After I suffered my first concussion from football practice, I was never really asked, “How are you feeling?” or “Is their anything you need?” from the coaches. It was usually something like, “How long until you get back to training?” or “Is you’re head hurting that much now?”
    Obviously this is a very utilitarian situation, but at this point, doesn’t it seem like there’s a bigger issue here. It seems to me as if humans (players of all divisions/leagues) aren’t being taken into account as human beings. They’re treated as animals, or as an object if you will. It’s as if they’re tools; you use them when you need them but then you throw them out when they’re not working. This seems to be the case with most players who are injured in any sport including the NFL. Although I’m proud of the NFL for finally starting to do something about this issue, I still strongly question their (NFL coaches/franchises) ethics and morals as to how they treat severely injured players who play for their own rosters and teams.

  6. jkoffman18

    Kelley Nicholson-Flynn

    [ January 19, 2017 at 1:44 pm ]

    Hey Julia,

    This is a very complex issues for a number of reasons. At the end of the day, what it comes down to is money and championship aspirations. Although not at the professional or collegiate level, as a former football player myself I can tell you from a first-hand perspective that most coaches and organizations don’t really care about the health or state of an individual player, what they care about is the health/ state of the team as a whole. Unless you’re the best (or a much needed player), your personal benefit/health is none of their concern. After I suffered my first concussion from football practice, I was never really asked, “How are you feeling?” or “Is their anything you need?” from the coaches. It was usually something like, “How long until you get back to training?” or “Is you’re head hurting that much now?”

    Obviously this is a very utilitarian situation, but at this point, doesn’t it seem like there’s a bigger issue here. It seems to me as if humans (players of all divisions/leagues) aren’t being taken into account as human beings. They’re treated as animals, or as an object if you will. It’s as if they’re tools; you use them when you need them but then you throw them out when they’re not working. This seems to be the case with most players who are injured in any sport including the NFL. Although I’m proud of the NFL for finally starting to do something about this issue, I still strongly question their (NFL coaches/franchises) ethics and morals as to how they treat severely injured players who play for their own rosters and teams.

    From: John Riggio

  7. jkoffman18

    Some would argue that any sport that is certain to cause permanent injury to its participants, be it football, boxing, even “heading” the ball in soccer, is barbaric, and should be stopped. The sports may have their beauty and appeal, but there are other practices that have over time been considered barbaric and abandoned. Think of gladiator battles to the death and castrated male soprano singers. There is current debate about whether bullfighting is barbaric and should be stopped, regardless if its artful aspects. Could an argument be made to adjust the game based on these ideas?

  8. jkoffman18

    addendum: Sports in this country are often seen in poorer communities as a way to escape poverty (see the documentary Hoop Dreams) and many are drawn into the pursuit at great cost. That we allow a disproportionate number of minorities to be drawn into violent sports likely to cause them permanent harm, like football and boxing, becomes something the national conscience also needs to take into consideration.

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