Football is violent by design. Opposing linemen crash into each other on every play, and when a defender gets a chance to put a big hit on a running back, or a receiver, or on the biggest prize of all, the quarterback, he throws himself into it. The result can be painful to watch, but the real pain is felt by the players, often on both sides of the hit. They're battered, belted, crushed, clobbered. They fall to the gridiron. Muscles can tear and bones can break. But more often, a big hit leaves players dizzy, dazed, or knocked cold -- signs that their brains have been concussed.. Sportscasters say, "He got his bell rung on that one!" Fans say, "That's what I'm talking about!" Coaches say, "Is he OK, can he play?" Players say, "Yeah, I'm OK, I can play."
All the hits, from routine collisions to bell-ringers, add up in a game, a season, a career. One would think that hard helmets and skulls would protect the spongy brains of players from harm. According to the lawsuits filed against the NFL, one would be wrong to think that. In fact, 2,400 former players say the NFL has long known that the repeated hits experienced by players can lead to permanent brain damage and that helmets, pads, and other gear offer little protection.
So, as OJ's lawyer might put it, if the league knew, then the players sue, and if they win, they get I-O-Us. It could cost the league hundreds of millions. Maybe more.
Do you think the players have a case? And if they win, what are the implications for NCAA football? High school football? Pop Warner? Will flag football transition from intramural fields to NFL and college and high school stadiums? Will American Football be replaced with what the rest of the world calls football (hint: soccer, and don't get me started about "headers").