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NFL agreement will fund research: Other View

5:06 PM, Aug. 30, 2013  |  Comments
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For retired pro football players and the National Football League, the agreement on compensation to players with debilitating head injuries constitutes a triumph of good sense over litigation.

Thursday's settlement will result in $765 million being spent on medical research, treatment for retired players suffering from long-lasting, concussion-related brain trauma, and financial compensation for those ex-players and their families.

Millions for meaningful purposes, in other words, rather than on lawyer fees.

Among those players are Hall of Famers such as Jim McMahon and Tony Dorsett. Among those families, the survivors of Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide in 2012. We prefer to remember such stars in shoulder pads and cleats, not in the throes of concussion-caused chronic depression or early-onset Alzheimer's.

Beneficial as it may be to those thousands of former players, the settlement also highlights serious issues with the game of football itself.

As research advances, the long-term medical consequences of head trauma are becoming clearer.

And the growing body of evidence does not bode well for a sport - especially the NFL version of the sport - that encourages violent collisions at high speeds between large men whose heads are encased in hard plastic.

For the NFL, that is the downside of the new and growing societal concerns about concussions: Just how thrilled will parents in the future be about their kids playing football?

- Arizona Republic

Another view: Bad deal for football fans

According to the mediator assigned to the dispute, the NFL and former players have reached an "historic" deal to "promote safety for players at all levels of football." That simply isn't true-concussion litigation that ends here won't help resolve the questions that affect players at every stage of their careers. Exactly how much disability do concussions cause? Can the game be made much safer? Just how dangerous is football, overall? A jumbo payout to retirees doesn't get us any closer to the answers. (...)

The NFL has done an abysmal job of caring for its former players, whether they're suffering from mild traumatic brain injury or any other common football ailments-busted joints, twisted spines, and all the rest. It's not a tragedy if the league has to throw some extra dollars in the pool on account of some "false positives." A wide net will at least ensure that every player who is truly suffering receives his share of compensation. But the imprecision of diagnosis means that even with all this money changing hands, we'll still have no idea how prevalent these disabilities really are.

The settlement does almost nothing to elucidate this question, nor any other in the science of concussions. How serious is the problem of head injuries in football? No one has ever done a well-controlled, long-term study of cognitive impairment to find out. No one has ever selected a random group of athletes in advance, then followed them over time to figure out how their rates of brain pathology relate to everybody else's. These are just the most basic questions that are yet to be answered, but there's lots more we still don't know.

- Daniel Engber, excerpted from Slate.com

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