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Are concussions indicative of a culture of violence?

Multiple scandals have hit the NFL in recent years. The issue about how much the League knew and failed to disclose about the long-term damage caused by traumatic brain injuries and concussions frequently sustained by its players led to a multimillion dollar settlement with retired players, many of whom suffer from the effects of those earlier injuries (e.g. early-onset dementia, Parkinson's, chronic encephalitis, and depression). As the medical community began to understand more about the devastating and lasting impacts of concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), parents began to worry about their children playing the sport in which the most head injuries are sustained: football. (Women's soccer is a distant second.) Even with more protective helmets, rules against certain types of hits, and regulations about how many hours of practice involving tackles and contact drills are allowed in one week, the game of football is still the most dangerous sport around. (See previous Thomas Law blogs on TBIs and concussions related to sports.)

The violence does not stop with concussions, however. The parade of players charged with domestic violence and/or child abuse constitutes the NFL's most recent scandal. Six players have been charged--one convicted--of physically assaulting their wives or girlfriends (one while pregnant), and/or hurting their small children (one only 18 months old). While some fans persist in demanding that the violence be resolved between the players and their families, casting it as a personal matter, it is hard to see actions that constitute assault when perpetrated on a woman or child who is not "family" as a private matter.

And that is the difference. The NFL is public, and its players are public figures. Young people look at the players as role models; they aspire to be like them on and off the field. Kids see their apparently superhuman strength and speed and strive for that ability; but what happens when that ability injures? What happens when that strength is used for violence?

Parents may decide enough is enough. The potential of head injury and permanent brain damage has already deterred some parents from enrolling their kids in junior varsity and high school football programs. With the latest scandal revealing a disturbing amount of violence perpetrated by players and a stunning lack of accountability by the League, parents may hesitate even more to place their children in such an environment.

The public may decide enough is enough, too. People may decide that it is not a wise use of resources to invest in youth football programs and school funded football leagues and scholarships when so many injuries result. The huge health care costs and lost potential of those injured are high. The culture of violence and lack of accountability for it that are perpetuated by the sport may be too high. For the time being however, it is perhaps most important to take adequate precautions on the field. See the following for a few suggestions regarding injury prevention.

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Thomas Law Firm
Located at 945 East Paces Ferry Road, Resurgens Plaza, GA 30326.

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