Roger Goodell’s solution to NFL concussion issue: Bury head firmly in sand

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The NFL seems to be stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to player health and safety.

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In reporting on recently unsealed depositions tied to the league’s concussion lawsuit settlement, Front Office Sports said that the NFL “is in the position of trying to straddle the causation issue” while also not wanting “to concede that playing football could lead to lifelong cognitive problems.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell questioned the link between concussions suffered while playing the sport and long-term brain damage.

“I think there’s still a great deal of uncertainty about the causation issue,” he said during his nine-hour deposition on July 13, 2022, which was unsealed on Saturday. “We all know there’s risks with playing football and other sports. There’s risks to walking down the street.”

One of the insurance companies suing to avoid covering the cost of the 2016 settlement — thousands of ex-players have been paid $1.3 billion in damages — says the NFL shouldn’t have settled because, they claim, there is no scientific evidence of causation between concussions and brain damage, according to FOS.

While causation hasn’t been scientifically proven, it is generally accepted that either single or repeated mild traumatic brain injuries (like concussions), can cause short-term effects that increase the risk of long-term neurodegenerative diseases like CTE or Alzheimer’s.

The league has even acknowledged the rise in concussions within the sport.

“The league’s position remains unchanged. Player health and safety is a top priority of the NFL, as the Commissioner testified and has long stated,” the league said in a statement to FOS. “The NFL has made and continues to make great strides to try to make the game safer for its players, including through rule changes, equipment advances, and by donating to and supporting critical scientific and medical research.”

Goodell was also asked about former players who died by suicide and asked that their brains be studied.

“I think players who want to participate in the research necessary to advance science is a positive thing for us,” the commissioner said. “Obviously, the circumstances are incredibly unfortunate.

“When you have research and brains can be studied … hopefully something good comes from that and in discovery. That’s how science advances. Obviously, as I stated, the unfortunate circumstances of anybody committing suicide are horrific in and of themselves. But there are a lot of factors that probably go into that.”

Goodell also took umbrage with the media’s coverage of head injuries.

“They misstate, they misrepresent things, and when they do that, they add to a narrative that I think is unfair and unfounded,” he said.

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