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The National Football League announced this past week that it has come to a settlement in a lawsuit brought against it by more than 4,500 retired players or their families. The suit, which said the NFL did not properly educate and warn against the dangers of concussions, will set aside $765 million for injury compensation, medical exams and funding for future football safety research.
The biggest question left after the settlement is this: What will be the ripple effect of this suit in all other stages of football in the country? This settlement could have far-reaching effects on college, high school and peewee football. Players who did not make it into the NFL might just have lawsuits of their own against the NCAA and other such organizations.
To me, the biggest part of this lawsuit was the players wanting compensation for the way the game was played in their era and the popularity that followed. The NFL has evolved into a multibillion-dollar industry, making it one of the wealthiest companies in the United States. It has also become the most popular sport in the U.S. over the past few decades.
The popularity came from hard-hitting, jawbreaking tackles and the toughness that was expected from football players. Multiple players who were part of the lawsuit have said they were expected to get right back on the field after a hard hit. With a concussion, further exposure and hits could have had massive effects.
The players wanted compensation for making the game the event it is today, but it could be hurting the sport in the long run.
With every report that comes out, more and more parents may be unwilling to put their children into a contact sport as dangerous as football. This could cause less and less recruits going to college programs, which in turn would cause less talent to be drafted into the NFL.
Now, I don’t think this lawsuit could cause the demise of football, but the tall order the NFL has right now is to make the game safer, which seems like an impossible task when you look at it. How do you make a game that, at the core, is a tackle game safer without changing the very nature of the game?
The NFL is committed to making the game safer. It has invested millions of dollars in the past few years alone on improving equipment, safety education and sideline procedures to prevent players from returning from hard hits that have caused concussions. They have also added additional game procedures, such as moving kickoffs to the 35-yard line.
For now, the players who filed the suit against the NFL are pleased with the settlement, which will provide relief right away for players who have developed ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other mental health problems, as well as future relief for players who develop said conditions.
“The benefits in this agreement will make a difference not only for me and my family, but also for thousands of my football brothers who either need help today or may need help someday in the future,” said Kevin Turner, a former running back for the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots who has been diagnosed with ALS, in a press release by the NFL. “I am grateful that the NFL is making a commitment to the men who made the game what it is today.”
With the continued funding and new initiative of football to make the game safer and have the players leave the game healthy, I hope the game will be enjoyed by many for generations to come. The wheels have been put into motion; we will see where the road takes us.