Concussion Settlement: The NFL Puts Its Finger in the Dike
This distinction has been made many times, but it's appropriate to cite it again:
Hockey is a contact sport. Football is a collision sport.
And as more and more sophisticated data is being compiled and collated, the actual physical toll of playing football is beginning to raise issues, both projected and known, as to what actually constitutes a legitimate hit anymore.
Here's the real answer: there isn't one.
Eliminating political correctness, gridiron football is grounded in hard hits. In its infancy, players were literally getting killed from them. It took an intervention by President Teddy Roosevelt to keep the game from being banned outright by the universities where the game gained a foothold and without whom the game would have died.
Ironically, the thinking back in 1905 was that technology would save the game. Better gear would yield better data on injuries. The reality is, it didn't. Instead, there was more impetus to go faster and hit harder.
Fast forward to the present. Dramatic suicides and ominous lawsuits put the matter of hard hits on the front burner in an entirely different perspective: the looming possibility of significant financial hits to a multi-billion-dollar industry.
So, the NFL did what multi-billion-dollar industries do: throw money out there that looks like mega-wads in the headlines but is actually peppercorn in their multi-billion-dollar budgets.
A possible $765million for a class-action concussion settlement? With how many unresolved strings attached? And this package is going to solve the problem? Yeah, right.
Yes, it's a brilliant move by the NFL to make the onerous headlines go away.
But the issue remains. And while technology may offer some solutions, it won't provide a complete resolution. Not when it is the subtle enabler of bigger, faster, and harder hits.
While there's been a disturbing recent trend in adding padding to ruggers, there is still no comparison between Rugby and gridiron football as regards amounts of protection players don. And yet, there remains no lack of hard-hitting action in the older sport:
(Incidentally, the New Zealand All-Blacks were the first to chant the haka in modern-day sports.)
Perhaps it will take no less than the intervention of another president to spur a total re-thinking of how to address the issue of hard hits in an über-popular, multi-billion-dollar sporting enterprise.
But it's a given that the hard hits won't be going away. Maybe it's just time to find a way for the human body to be better prepared to endure them without all the armor.