Concussions and the Future of Football

The potential socio-economic consequences of the concussion crisis

The concerns about head injuries and cognitive problems among football players of all ages continues to mount. Lawsuits continue to be filed by former NFL players andcollege and high school athletes suffering from concussion-related symptoms. Is it possible that the consequences of all this could one day mean the end of football?

There are plenty of doomsday scenarios that would have us think so:

  • Insurance companies may decide against insuring colleges and high schools against football-related lawsuits.
  • Coaches, team physicians, and referees would consider their financial exposure in such a litigious atmosphere.
  • Parents might keep their kids from playing football, and set off a domino effect with other parents.

This could result in the NFL lacking a feeder system and advertisers and networks shying away from the negative publicity. It might take 10 to 15 years, but it could happen under the following circumstances:

  • More players cFootball injuryommit suicide with autopsies revealing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
  • A class-action lawsuit is filed.
  • The NFL changes it policies, but its later proven that less than concussion levels of constant head contact produce CTE.
  • New technology in helmets and pads fail to solve the problem.
  • High schools close their football programs, the Ivy League quits football, California stops participating and busts up the Pac-12. This is followed by the Big Ten and East Coast calling it quits, leaving football as a regional sport in the southeast and Texas/Oklahoma.
  • Advertisers drop like flies.

Hopefully, this doomsday vision will never materialize as youth football, high school, college, and pro organizations will recognize the threat and will be quick to implement:

  • Massive education programs for players, parents, and coaches on the symptoms of concussions, procedures for evaluating possible concussions, removal from play policies, return to play policies, etc.
  • Baseline neuro-psychological testing to compare against post-concussion testing
  • More studies on the effects of cumulative impacts or hits to the head that are not concussions
  • New helmet technology
  • Rule modifications to limit helmet-to-helmet contact

General Liability  insurance carriers that insure football organizations will be following these developments closely as they are concerned about the liability potential.

Source: “What Would the End of Football Look Like?”, Tyler Cohen and Kevin Arier, February 1, 2012.