Steve Chapman at the Chicago Tribune looks at the cultural and legal responses to the mounting evidence that professional football inflicts brain damage on many of its players. He quotes my view that if the litigation system carries over to football the legal principles it applies to other industries, the game isn’t likely to survive in its current form. [sorry for quoting the whole thing Walter, I just couldn't figure out how to excerpt it]
There is a very good chance that the NFL could go the way of Johns Manville or Dow Corning. Those companies still exist after being sued into bankruptcy, but that is only because they had other businesses to shift into. The NFL just has football. And after reading the concussion stories recently, plaintiff's lawyers are going to have a hell of a lot better scientific case than they had with breast implants. I honestly think it will take an act of Congress to keep the NFL alive, giving them some sort of liability exemption similar to what ski resorts got years ago.
And don't think the NFL does not know this. If you are wondering why they handed out insanely over-the-top penalties for bounty-gate in New Orleans, this is why. They are working to establish a paper trail of extreme diligence on player safety issues for future litigation.
As an aside, I find it frustrating that there is not a better helmet solution.
As a second aside, there is a guy here in Phoenix who was showing off an accelerometer for football helmets, with some kind of maximum single g-force or cumulative g-force trigger that would cause a player to be pulled from a game, sort of like how a radiation badge works. Good idea. Look for these to be mandatory equipment in high schools in colleges. Takes the absurd guess work out of concussion diagnosis today, particularly since this diagnosis is done by people (the player and their team) who have strong incentives to decide that there was no concussion.
As a third aside, there are those who argue helmets are the problem. Just as people drive less safely with seat belts and air bags in cars, helmets lead to less care on the field. I will say I played rugby for years (without a helmet of course) and never had one concussion, or any head hit anywhere close to a concussion. In amateur rugby in the leagues I played in, reckless behavior that might lead to injuries was strongly frowned upon and punished by the group. Teams that played this way quickly found themselves without a game. There were plenty of ways to demonstrate toughness without trying to injure people.