By: Joseph Cammarata
The NFL season is here, and while recent studies and lawsuits have raised
awareness about the long-term risks associated with repetitive brain trauma
in football, most people still remain fans of the sport. In fact, recent
polls of sports fans indicate that the publicity surrounding traumatic
brain injuries has done little to detract from the sport’s popularity.
As one of nation’s favorite pastimes, football has long held a cherished
spot in America’s heart. This is despite the increasing amount of
evidence that concussions and
brain injuries sustained by athletes during their career can lead to devastating consequences,
including conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, and chronic
traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a serious neurodegenerative condition
which researchers recently found in
99% of former NFL athletes. The love of football also survived the NFL’s recent public admission
of the links between
head trauma and long-term risks.
In a nationwide poll conducted by the University of Massachusetts and The
Washington Post, researchers received feedback that shows football remains
one of the country’s most prized sports:
- More Americans are fans of professional football than any other sport.
- The 60% of Americans who favored football is a 10% increase from a similar
poll conducted in 2008.
These results become more concerning when you take the science and publicity
behind football-related head trauma into account. According to the poll:
- 83% of Americans believe the science supporting links between serious neurodegenerative
conditions and repetitive head trauma suffered by athletes.
- 90% of Americans believe that brain injuries and long-term health risks
are a problem for professional football (76% believe is it a major problem).
Acknowledgement of problems associated with head trauma and long-term health
consequences for athletes has done little to prevent Americans from watching
and enjoying football, and has done little to detract from the popularity
of the sport overall. While most Americans choose to enjoy football as
a source of entertainment, however, there have been a number of players
who have retired early due to those risks.
Continued Efforts Can Create Change
Although concerning, the poll results are largely expected. After all,
football has long been a popular pastime enjoyed by millions, and has
dominated Sundays and weekday nights for many across the nation, including
those who enjoy Fantasy Football. What they do succeed in showing is that
there is greater public awareness about the risks and long term consequences
associated with sustaining a concussion.
At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our legal team has been
advocating for public safety since our firm was first formed over 45 years
ago. We believe it is important to raise awareness about the life-changes
which can result as a result of sustaining a concussion. Already, these
efforts have succeeded in prompting important changes which have taken
place throughout local communities across the country, including right
here in the District of Columbia. For instance, I helped draft the
DC Athletic Concussion Protection Act of 2011, which, when it became law, made critical safety changes to youth
sports and how leagues, coaches, and parents address head injuries. With
continued persistence, we can pursue similar and life-saving changes in
football and contact sports at all levels.