With the explosion of news about traumatic brain injury, football, and everything connecting the two in the days leading to the Super Bowl, there has been a lot to get caught up with. Nearly every event held in the days before the game brought a mention of TBI, and just about every player possible was asked for their opinions on the matter.
Another person under constant questioning about TBI in the NFL is Commissioner Roger Goodell, and on February 1st he answered at least eight questions on the health and safety of the league. He also said the league’s number one priority is preventing head injuries, saying, “the number one issue is take the head out of the game. I think we’ve seen in the past decades players using their heads more than they have.”
Goodell also listed other new implementations for the league. Starting next season, the NFL will have independent neurosurgeons on the sidelines, as well as a new requirement for postseason physicals which take roughly three days to complete. There are also rules in place banning blows to the head and knees, which suspension a probable penalty for players that break these rules.
Goodell told the reporters gathered for the annual pre-Super Bowl news conference, “I’ll do anything that’s going to make the game safer and better.”
Of course, at this point things have to be changing. Goodell has been under intense pressure all season, as more and more evidence piles up regarding lifetime brain injuries in former professional football players. 2,000 former players have various lawsuits against the league, all addressing brain injury in some way.
There have also been numerous high profile incidences where chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease caused by repeated head trauma, was found in the brains of former NFL players who have committed Suicide. Junior Seau, the 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker, was the most recent case of CTE related Suicide.
To top it all off, despite numerous statements in the press from players saying otherwise, Bloomberg.com reports that an NFL Players Association survey released two days ago says that nearly 80 percent of players don’t trust their teams’ medical staff. Only three percent of the players in the survey indicated they have some or a lot of trust in team doctors.
The NFL deserves credit for the shifts they are making to improve player safety. Changing the style of play, and increasing numbers of trained medical professionals won’t cause any players any harm. Even when it is questionable whether the motives behind the changes is really solely in the name of player safety, all improvements to players safety are welcome. The real question is whether it is too little, too late.