NFL Concussions: The Hits Keep Coming
The news is in: Giants wide receiver Ramses Barden got a concussion in the Sunday game, and may be missing out on the action for the rest of the week. He has to be medically cleared to return to practice, and that will not be happening by Wednesday, making a return this Sunday also unlikely. If you caught the game, you may have noticed the pass interference that smacked his skull a little.
The team, worried about a slowdown in performance, is giving Barden as much time as he needs to make a full recovery. But this latest report raises a lot of questions. Many Giants fans are probably asking: Wait - didn't someone resolve NFL concussions? Aren't new safety regulations and better equipment floating around now?
Yes, and no. The NFL cannot cure concussions. It cannot really stop them, either. Awareness has led to some changes in college-level rules and new methods of practice among young players, but for the most part the NFL has tried to dodge the issue. The league maintains that playing the game is accepting the risk, and hastily adds that outside factors like drinking or old injuries could play a part and hey, there's no negligence because we did everything we could.
Players disagree - in mass. Around 70 percent of current players in the league fear the memory loss, dementia, and cognitive problems that their concussions cause later in life. Retired players have filed lawsuits against the league in droves (around 3,000 by now) and claim NFL concussions are least partly the fault of Big Management.
The NFL has asked courts to drop the cases, arguing they are technically labor disputes and don't deserve to be lawsuits. Players like Jim McMahon disagree, saying that money aside, the lawsuits are bringing much-needed awareness to a decades-old problem.
Here's a new way to look at the concussion issue: What do you think? Because that is exactly what the NFL is wondering. Despite the ref lockout, despite the economy, despite the commercials (who watches commercials any more? seriously) ticket sales and viewer stats are incredibly high this season.
The hasty ref agreement shows the league is willing to keep fans happy and keep those profits high. Could a fan outcry over concussions lead to a similar move here? More to the point, what can be done? Is the NFL being as innovative in concussion solutions as it should be, or is it just a fact of the game?