It’s no secret that the rules have been evolving in the NFL and the focus has primarily been on player safety, specifically on reducing concussions. The biggest complaint of fans is that the sport is becoming “too soft” and the hard-hitting showmanship they once loved is being put on the wayside. So the question is posed; is football becoming too soft? From a spectator view it’s an opinionated answer. From the NFL’s perspective, there are still tremendous strides to be made to ensure the safety and well-being of its players, not only during the duration of their career, but the life there-after.
A research team evaluated the brains of 202 deceased former football players from the high-school through professional levels. A whopping 87%, or 177 players, showed signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). To no surprise, the longer the players were involved in the game and the higher the level, the more likely they were to develop severe cases of CTE. Researchers also found that the median age of death for players with mild CTE was 44 years. The most common cause of death was suicide for these players at 27%. Those with Severe CTE, the most common cause of death was dementia and Parkinson’s related at 47%.
Opinions aside, the statistics on long-term effects don’t lie. Something needs to change in the NFL much like every day companies need to invest in their safety programs. NFL athletes, at the end of the day, are employees of an organization. Much like we anticipate that our employers care for our health and well-being, athletes deserve the same treatment. Personal Protective equipment is still PPE whether its shoulder pads and a helmet or a hardhat. Training on proper tackling techniques is the same as training on proper ergonomics and lifting form. Argue it’s less fun to watch, argue they get paid heavily for the risks they take, but never forget that the number one priority is to always, always protect your employees.