Two weeks ago, the National Football League (NFL) reached an agreement to pay $765 million to 18,000 retired players, according to Sports Illustrated. The compensation is for concussion-related injuries sustained during NFL games and practices.
The NFL has recently come under fire for not disclosing all known information regarding the dangers of football. Only recently have studies begun to show correlations between sustaining multiple concussions and brain damage.
The NFL, however, is a multibillion dollar industry and will be just fine in the coming years — as shown by their $765 million settlement with retired players. Any future lawsuits can and will be quashed by their elite lawyers and vast amounts of money — just as they have done in the past. The real trouble lies at the youth level — high school football and younger.
A partially-paralyzed high school player from Colorado named Rhett Ridolfi sustained major brain injuries during a practice in April. According to USA Today, Ridolfi recently won $11.5 million against his school district and the helmet company that supplies gear to his team.
Cases like Ridolfi’s have been slowly piling up around the country. Three 16-year-old high school football players in California, Georgia and Louisiana have died from football-related head injuries in the past few months, and all three families are looking into taking action against their respective schools and helmet suppliers, according to ESPN.
All athletic activity carries some known risk — the issue is that in football, it is easy to blame and sue third parties.
A school can be sued for not protecting their players properly and helmet companies can be sued for not producing proper helmets. Furthermore, a coach can be sued for allowing a player that may have a head injury back in the game.
According to Sports MD, a sports medicine website, Second Impact Syndrome (SIS) is when someone sustains a second concussion before the effects of the first concussion have subsided. SIS often results in death. Only recently have all football leagues around the country instituted strict concussion rules that protect against SIS.
On the other hand, Major League Baseball, a league that does not reguarly deal with concussions, has instituted a special disabled list specifically for concussions.
The effects of a concussion can last for years, and just because someone does not seem disoriented does not mean the brain is not still feeling the effects of a concussion.
Most high schools and youth football leagues simply do not have the resources to defend against multimillion dollar lawsuits. As fewer children play youth football, high school teams will start to struggle to fill their rosters. College football teams will have less players to choose from and eventually the NFL will begin to feel the effects. According to the Washington Post, participation in youth football over the last three years in the United States has decreased by 11%.
Influential figures like President Barack Obama and retired football players such as former Pittsburgh Steeler and Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw have admitted that they would not allow their children to play football because of the risk that comes with playing the sport.
“I’ve fought with my son about playing football for seven years,” one Palo Alto High School parent said. “I haven’t been to one of his games in six years.”
Paly has a fantastic football culture. However, as Palo Alto is not located in a concussion-free bubble, the community will need to find ways to better protect their youth.
Paly’s football program could experience a slow decline due to the increased amount of awareness regarding serious injuries, or it could fall apart due to a lawsuit — all it takes is one bad injury.
“If my son were somehow paralyzed due to a hit to the head, then, yeah, I’d look into taking legal action,” said Mike, whose name has been changed to protect his identity. “I’m certain that I am not the only parent in Palo Alto that would say this.”