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Should NFL Players Have Known The Dangers of Concussions?

This is a player whose career might actually end from the concussions he's taken.
This is a player whose career might actually end from the concussions he's taken.

On Thursday the master complaint encompassing over two thousand former NFL players and their "lack of concussion information" lawsuit against the league was officially filed.

Rick Morrissey thinks their basis for the lawsuit is, in a word, hogwash. In his article written on Friday night, Morrissey drew comparisons to football from boxing, intimating that if boxers knew that punching each other in the head would lead to concussions, football players should have known anyway that high-speed collisions occasionally involving the head could lead to concussions as well.

If fighters sued one of the governing bodies about the dangers of boxing, they would get laughed out of a courtroom. There's a long line of former boxers who are ‘‘punch drunk,'' which is a kind way of saying ‘‘brain-damaged and needing to be spoon-fed.'' There was scientific research that told people the sport was dangerous. And boxers kept boxing anyway.

We're finding out now that football might be just as dangerous and . . . hold it a second: Remind me why we're surprised? Weren't all the head-on collisions a hint?

Let's start with his first point - do people want to see hard hits, knockouts, and people getting "jacked up"? I wouldn't say that's not true. Whether it be boxers in a ring, gladiators in a Roman Colosseum, football, hockey, or even NASCAR, we've always pretty much been a species that has an attraction to violence. So it's entirely possible that our partaking of big hits or big knockouts in boxing leads to the glorification of it in such segments like "Jacked Up."

But then I think Morrissey starts to get a little off his rocker.

I'll cop to some mixed emotions here. I believe the former NFL players knew the risks of football while they were playing, and I believe most of them would do it all over again knowing what the latest research shows. How many current players have sworn off the game as the frightening data about brain injuries has come to light? Just about none.

But I also believe the NFL is the kind of monolithic corporation that would hide information to protect its hugely profitable product, just as I believe tobacco companies hid the hazards of smoking cigarettes from the public. Call it cynicism run amok, but there it is.

I will call it cynicism run amok - I'll agree the NFL certainly has incentive to want the best players to play their sport, but I wouldn't go so far as to say they'd intentionally hide the effects of concussions, and especially when the effects of concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy are right there in the news with the suicides of Dave Duerson and Junior Seau.

And that's the other point - the ultimate effects of concussions and CTE are mostly coming to light in recent years - if Morrissey was expecting a mass exodus of players fleeing from the NFL, it just isn't going to happen. Where the change is happening is in parents not wanting their kids to play football.

What I will admit is a possibility is that the players know what they're putting their bodies through, the league knows what they are paying the players to put their bodies through, and the league also happens to have the most money and income of any sports league in the nation. You don't have to hide the dangers of the sport you play or provide when many millions of dollars are available to sway a player's opinion - of course, many of which are provided by those of us watching the games, buying merchandise or tickets to see it live.

Morrissey's ultimate point may be nothing more than "Something Plus Fragile Braincase Equals Brain Trauma," and players in the lawsuit may be experiencing buyer's remorse on when they played the game and their compensation. And it's not just head hits that cause CTE - any sudden inertial change can contribute to CTE.

But as it relates to the lawsuit, I can see where some of the more recent cases might be dismissed but others awarded. It's not black or white when it comes to the exact dangers of playing the game, and I'm not sure Duerson or Seau would have believed it if they were told before their careers began that they'd be committing suicide at this point in their lives. It's no stretch to say they could have a brain injury through playing. But it's also no stretch to say that players could not have known brain injuries could be this bad - and the same goes for the league.

What do you guys think, of either Rick Morrissey's column or of the knowledge of and severity of brain injuries?