Joe Bittner, ‘Doah Staff Writer
September 4, 2013
Football is a sport of passion, strength, grace and danger. Players sacrifice their bodies for a sport they love and fans that love them. In the so called golden age of football, players fought hard and tough, and hit each other relentlessly. Injuries were prominent, but what else was expected when the equipment lacked real protection? Up until 1971, players used leather helmets that provided little to no protection. However, the first series of plastic helmets were not much better.
So what was the true fear involved with this sport? Head injuries. Players received multiple concussions per season and were still allowed to play. There were few restrictions and little knowledge of the risks.
Two years ago a group of retired National Football League players began suing the NFL. Led by players such as Tony Dorsett and Jim McMahon, more than 4,500 players went after the league for hiding their knowledge of the long-term effects of head injuries. Players with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and the families of those who passed away due to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), such as Junior Seau, felt the league purposely omitted the dangers from players.
After a long and trying battle, a tentative settlement was announced on Thursday, Aug. 29. In this agreement, the NFL will pay a total of at least $765 million to a group of more than 20,000 former players. The plaintiff’s attorney fees could top $100 million on its own.
According to the Associated Press, “Individual payouts would be capped at $5 million for men with Alzheimer’s disease; $4 million for those diagnosed after their deaths with a brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy; and $3 million for players with dementia.”
During these negotiations, the NFL changed its policies on head injuries with regards to returning to the field. The tests have become very strict to where the training staff must be completely sure that the player has no symptoms remaining before returning to play.
The NFL has also made changes to the rules of the game. These additions prohibit hits to the head or neck, and also protect defenseless players. One important rule alteration taking effect this season inhibits ball carriers from hitting defenders leading with the crown of the helmet.
Although the former players are happy with the rules that have resulted from their lawsuit, they are still weary to trust the NFL. The money is great for the families who have lost loved ones so they can begin to recover, but there is still a sense of worry that more could be done.
“My reaction to it is when they settle with you, it’s because they have no other choice,” said Eugene “Mercury” Morris, a Miami Dolphin running back from 1969-76. “I still don’t trust them.”