The NFL lockout is over and the CBA is signed, sealed and delivered. We will have football peace for at least 10 years. Thank goodness. The collective bargaining agreement is 200 pages long and way too detailed to break down. The most interesting aspect is the focus on player safety that the owners agreed upon.
Some of the new CBA player safety highlights include:
• Reducing the offseason program by five weeks, reducing organized team activities from 14 to 10.
• Limiting on-field practice time and contact
• Limiting full-contact practices in the preseason and regular season.
• Increasing number of days off for players.
• Opportunity for current players to remain in the player medical plan for life.
• An enhanced injury protection benefit of up to $1 million of a player’s salary for the contract year after his injury and up to $500,000 in the second year after his injury.
• No change to the 16-game regular-season/4-game preseason format until at least 2013; any subsequent increase in the number of regular-season games must be made by agreement with the NFL Players Association.
• $50 million per year joint fund for medical research, healthcare programs and NFL Charities, including NFLPA-related charities.
We’ve all watched our favorite players stumble off the field, eyes rolling and disoriented and we are seeing it with increasing frequency. With the increased focused on concussions and the potential long term impact that repeated concussions can create, these changes are key to increasing the longevity of a player’s career which is 3.5 years on average.
A recent study of the brains of deceased former Canadian Football League players show that 2 of the 4 brains suffered from a neurological disease. Bobby Kuntz, former Toronto Argonaut and Hamilton Tiger-Cat and Jay Roberts, former Ottawa Rough Rider, had repeated concussions throughout their career and both of their brains showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. It’s a small sample but the result is 50%.
While doctors are continuing to research the relationship between concussions and CTE, the symptoms that former athletes with multiple concussions experience which include memory impairment, erratic behavior, impaired speech, slow movement, muscle stiffness, depression, poor impulse control, emotional instability and dementia seem to indicate a link.
Dave Duerson, former NFL defensive back, committed suicide after a suffering personal setbacks and depression. Prior to killing himself, Duerson ensured that his brain would be donated for research. The results showed that Duerson had moderately advanced brain damage. Chris Henry, former Bengals wide receiver, died at the age of 26 and his brain showed signs of chronic CTE. These are two athletes that we are aware of. Tests have been conducted on anonymous athletes with similar results. A related study of over 900 former NFL players documented symptoms of CTE in 35% of the athletes, almost 3 times that 13% rate of the general populations.
At the end of the day, we want to see our athletes bigger, stronger, faster. What we don’t typically think about are the long term ramifications of the game. I applaud the players for standing their ground and ensuring their health and safety, not only for themselves but for their families. I applaud the owners for recognizing the importance of player health and safety. It’s a win-win all around. Now let’s get ready for some football!!!