Football at any level is a violent, contact sport. There is no other sport where controlled rage and violence is orchestrated in such a precise manner as football. Players, especially the lineman, are consistently waging head to head battles in the trenches. Over the years, players have gotten bigger, stronger, and faster with new workout regimes and technology, yet the equipment hasn't been able to keep up with the evolution. Yet, everyone was in shock when Carson Palmer, the Cincinnati Bengals Quarter back, stated "someone will die on the field."
Just recently, Congress has asked the NFL and the Players' Association representatives to testify on what is being done to prevent and treat these serious head injuries. The issue cannot be simplified in what is being done to treat or prevent these problems or what has been done to help those who have been affected. There needs to be a comprehensive plan in place to deal with the monitoring and reporting of head injuries from the youth level to the NFL, ensuring that players who suffer from head trauma are treated properly.
Many former NFL players from the 1950s-1970s suffer from bouts of dementia, Alzheimer's, depression, and other head trauma induced diseases and disorders resulting from their time in the NFL. During those years, the NFL failed to monitor head trauma as a whole, and cannot necessarily cite with accuracy the number of players suffering from such injuries. Even knowing that such head injuries were suffered, the league and the player's union failed to provide money and insurance to help the old timers who were not beneficiaries of the multimillion dollar deals of the current times.
One of the more well known cases involved Hall of Famer Mike Webster, who died at the relatively young age of 50 after 17 years in the NFL. The NFL and the Players Association refused to grant disability insurance to treat his head injuries and resulting depression, which resulted in his physical deterioration and contributed to his eventual death. However, his death prompted a family lawsuit against the NFL, insisting that Webster's death was the result of a disability suffered while playing football. A US District Court agreed, awarding the family $1.142 million dollars in back benefits, and an Appeals Courtaffirmed the decision. In that affirmation, the court stated that the league's retirement plan must pay benefits for players who suffered disabilities while playing football.
There are many others still alive today that suffer through the lingering effects of head trauma, and are fighting to receive some benefits and insurance to treat their minds and bodies. But the reform goes further than just providing older former players with insurance and health care. The NFL and the medical field need to develop more comprehensive testing and monitoring of concussions, and develop a system for reporting such injuries. Innovations in helmet technology must be developed, researched and encouraged to ensure that some of these injuries can be prevented.
In the end, the only way to eliminate such head trauma is to eliminate football, which would never happen. But what can happen is to actively monitor head trauma victims, and ensure medical clearances by experts in the field are given before a player steps foot on the field again.