By Patrick Barron,
Sports Business Writer
The National Football League has announced its plans to invest further in its concussion testing. On Wednesday, the NFL’s Commissioner Roger Goodell published an open letter on the “Play Smart. Play Safe.” website. He details various ways the NFL will move forward in regards with head injuries, care, and prevention. He also stated that the league will pledge $100 million towards reaching those goals.
In the letter Goodell says, “…when it comes to addressing head injuries in our game, I’m not satisfied, and neither are the owners of the NFL’s 32 clubs. We can and will do better.”
While Goodell admits that the league has to improve its dealings with concussions, it has many critics who say the NFL can do even more to protect its players. Thousands of former NFL players filed a lawsuit against the league in 2014. They claimed that the league concealed the dangers of concussions from them causing or exposing them to head injuries. The league admitted that head trauma will affect about one-third of all retired NFL Players. In a settlement rumored to be $1 billion, the league will make payments out to over 20,000 former players over these claims.
In addition, the NFL’s total investment of $100 million is split into two parts. $60 million will go towards improving existing technology in the league such as helmets, and $40 million will go towards medical research. The latter allotment is part of a new initiative on player safety.
Furthermore, Goodell says the $40 million investment will go towards “scientific research to examine the long-term effects of concussions, the incidence and prevalence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and what can be done to improve long-term player health.”
It is not the first time the NFL has donated money towards medical research. In 2012, the league donated $30 million to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.
However, it was later revealed in a congressional report that the league wanted to influence the officials chosen in concussion research. The NFL has since then denied those claims.
Though, as the league seems to move forward with concussion polices, there are still hiccups. In particular, one game in the league’s season opener exemplifies it. Carolina Panthers superstar quarterback and reigning Most Valuable Player Cam Newton was illegally hit with multiple helmet-to-helmet collisions. There was no penalties given as he continued the game. After public scrutiny, the league and its player union announced they will each examine the concussion protocol.
It is good to see the NFL take steps to better protect its players, but critics say it is long overdue. And while they are fair in that assessment, even they have to agree that the league’s stances on concussions and policies has significantly changed in the last decade.
There are more calls for football to be banned, with many citing numerous safety issues. It is yet to be seen how the league will operate in the future. Hopefully, the NFL can do even more to protect its players in future. This investment is a step in the right direction, both for the league’s image and more importantly player safety.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 27th print edition.
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