Florida is a main goldmine for football talent of all ages. Florida high schools and communities alone have the most elite football programs in the industry. Florida is filled with retired football players wanting to continue to live it up in the sun after a draining football career.
Being a football player comes with both good and bad factors. The fame and glamor are astonishing in the beginning but what you are left with after your career is over might not be worth it all. Being on that huge football field means enduring hit after hit of direct body contact with other aggressive padded football players, could cause head injuries that can be life altering.
On November 21st, 2016, 26 retired Florida football players filed suit against the NFL, demanding the league give them workers’ compensation. The players allege that the league hid the fact that repeated concussions cause a disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), in which a person’s brain wastes away until he or she dies. There are a total of 141 players that filed suit against the NFL.
The NFL “routinely failed to care for Plaintiffs’ repetitive head injuries during their careers in any medically competent or meaningful manner that complied with any known published contact sports return-to-play guidelines at the time in which the injuries occurred,” the suit says.
Studies show players who live through multiple concussions and blows to the head often develop a fatal disease in which the brain wastes away, causing severe memory loss and confusion. Multiple investigations have shown the NFL knowingly hid the risk of CTE from its players, and in 2015, the NFL agreed to pay retirees more than $1 billion for CTE-related medical claims. But players say that since that decision came down, science has shown the NFL should be taking care of even more players.
“Scientific verification of CTE in living subjects is currently available, and is no different from ALS diagnosis probabilities,” the suit says. “Essentially, living-CTE has now become clinically diagnosable to the same extent that living-ALS has become recognized as being clinically diagnosable.” As such, the suit says, the players deserve workers’ compensation for the sustained, repeated, and unavoidable hits to the head they received on the field.
Thanks to the brain scientist of the University of Pennsylvania, 2016 has been a huge breakthrough year in the study of CTE. They discovered a way to measure a brain protein called tau, in order to predict CTE in adults. According to Penn scientists, far more players were living with early-onset CTE than anyone had previously thought.
The suit claims the NFL knew concussions could destroy players’ brains since at least 1994 but pretended everything was OK for at least another decade. The suit leans heavily on the New York Times’ reporting on ties between the NFL and the tobacco industry:
Defendants have a long history of conjuring and promulgating maligned scientific studies and medical research, which have been observably devised to complement their financial state of well-being. Strikingly, NFL-Defendants have been handling this health crisis similar to that of the tobacco industry, which is known for using questionable science to minimize the dangers of cigarettes. Defendants have gone so far as to hire many of the same lobbyists, lawyers, and consultants that have become infamous for representing the big tobacco companies in the same manipulative manner.
Beginning in 2005, the suit says, the NFL and other sports leagues tried to inject as much false information into the public consciousness as possible. “Like Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, et al., NFL defendants know that it is much easier to debate the science than to debate the logic,” the players claim.
So now the South Florida players named in the lawsuit are fighting to protect every early-onset CTE victim in the NFL. The players say that, rather than beef up their retirement benefits, the NFL is ignoring the fact that recently retired players, some in their 20s, are living with brain fog, confusion, and memory loss as a direct result of their time in the NFL. (At least one player as young as 18 was found to have CTE-like symptoms in a study, and a 21-year-old player who hanged himself was also found to have CTE.)