A Final Evaluation of the Inadequacy of How the NFL Handled the Concussion Crisis

Based on what I have read about how NFL has handled the concussion crisis, I believe the best way to view the issue is that the NFL has actually handled the concussion crisis very inadequately and irresponsible for so many years. I believe this because I have found an article by Sean Gregory that truly shows how poorly the NFL has seen and handled this crisis. In addition from my own personal experience, I have begun to notice that in previous years, the NFL kept me as the viewer from ever hearing about the issues the NFL was encountering from the concussion crisis and instead the NFL found ways to think that the NFL is only doing good and nothing bad and controversial. Another reason that suggests how inadequately the NFL has handled this issue is that various articles are reporting how multiple NFL players are now retiring at a younger age than usual ever since the NFL finally admitted the link between CTE from possible head trauma. For these reasons, it is obvious the lives of hundreds of NFL players may be at risk if there is no immediate action. Such action that I would suggest to the NFL is to implement a rule in which all players would be required to undergo at least two neurological examinations annually before and after each NFL season.

The article “New Book, and PBS Documentary, Details NFL’s Concussion Denial” written by TIME Magazine Senior Writer Sean Gregory shows a little bit of exactly how much the NFL was in denial when it came to the link of CTE and concussions. This article narrates the story of when neuropathologist Ann McKee was invited by the NFL’s MTBI (a concussion research committee) to present her current research on CTE. In the article McKee explains to Sean Gregory about how during her presentation in the meeting, McKee felt belittled by the committee as she was continuously interrupted and questioned about her research throughout. Gregory notes that by the end, the committee denied that her research (showing CTE linked to repeated head trauma) was true, without stating any rational to support their denial. McKee adds on by saying, “They were convinced it was wrong, I felt that they were in a very serious state of denial.” This article gives a more extended idea of how the NFL just blindly denied the factual evidence about the dangers of concussions without even stating their point of view. By just doing such thing, this shows the NFL has been careless on how it has handed the concussion crisis.

In one of my own experiences, I’ll be talking about how the NFL managed to keep at least one fan from learning more about the truth of the potential dangers of football and how the league made itself look like the “good guy” throughout the entire time. Whenever I would tune into the channel “NFL Network,” the only thing I would watch and listen was football and more football and I loved that. Once in a while, besides hearing about player status and team news, there would be reports on how the NFL had donated millions of dollars into concussion research groups and how the NFL funded these small programs that promote player safety to young aspiring football players across the United States. But one thing that I have recently just realized was that the NFL never really talked a lot of detail in regards to concussions except for reporting which players had received a concussion that week. I never really heard anything about how the NFL denied this nor new statistics of players at risk of getting a permanent brain disease (CTE). It was obvious that wherever the NFL had control of the media, the league made every effort to glorify itself about the concussion crisis, in any way possible for as much as it could. Obscuring the truth from its viewers might have worked (I know it worked a little on me), but eventually the NFL could only continue to do it for so long.

In addition to the NFL obscuring the truth from its viewers, the NFL’s timing when it came to finally admitting that it is possible to develop CTE from playing caused for more players to retire at their prime in fear of their own health. Had the NFL admitted this sooner, perhaps others could have helped preserve their lives longer. In a New York Times article by Ken Belson called “Chris Borland, Fearing for Health, Retires From the 49ers. At 24,” Belson explains how after having a standout season with the 49ers in his first year in the NFL and showing future promise for his team, the former linebacker, Chris Borland, age 24, decided to hang the cleats and walk out from the game he has loved since he was really young. Borland adds on by saying, “From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk” (Belson, 2015). In another article called “Only 23, another NFL player is retiring early because of concussions,” written by Ryan Wilson, it discusses how the retirement of Chris Borland caused for an increase in other young players to put their health first over playing football. This article discusses how former Buffalo Bill linebacker A.J. Tarpley, age 23, decided to retire after only his first year in the NFL amid learning more about the serious consequences of concussions after the NFL admitted so. Tarpley added on by saying explaining saying, “After months of introspection, I am retiring from football. I suffered the third and fourth concussions of my career this past season and I am walking away from the game I love to preserve my future health.” These players are only two of the dozen young athletes that too walked away fearing for their health. These players retired once the NFL itself admitted the dangers; thus it is perhaps possible that had the NFL admitted this problem sooner, then maybe it might have caused those players that eventually took their lives and also the ones that are still struggling right now showing signs of CTE as a result form multiple concussions to retire sooner and avoided this from ever happening to them.

After all this extensive research that I have done in trying to answer on whether the NFL was inadequate about the concussion crisis or not, there is no longer a doubt in my mind that the league absolutely did not handle this properly and as a result of its actions, not only is the league suffering from intense criticism for not handling this well, but also former and current players are now paying the consequences from the NFL’s decisions. For some of the players that are currently playing, it might be too late for them; maybe they are already developing CTE. But it is possible for the NFL to do something that matters in this crisis, for once. The NFL’s lack of attention towards the safety of its players should no longer go ignored. It is time for something to happen before others fall victims of this degenerative brain disease. It is time for the NFL to take some serious initiative and develop a protocol that requires all NFL players to undergo a thorough neurological examination before and after each NFL season. By doing this the NFL can still do something good after many years of denial and lying.

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