The Fight for Justice: NFL vs Player Safety

Why do people hold secrets? Maybe because they keep people on the edge of their seats, or maybe we find them as a guilty pleasure because we like to see family and friends seem clueless to what we're hiding behind our back. Secrets are things humans can't resist. Everyone has them, maybe for the good, or maybe for the bad. The world is full of secrets. Humans can't help but hold secrets. Companies hold secrets. Governments hold secrets. We like to see people suffer over something that we won't tell. The National Football League, for instance is a multi-billion dollar company that held secrets about players. They jeopardized their players health. Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas is about the story of Bennet Omalu, a pathologist who fought for player justice and broke boundaries by publishing his findings about the NFL and their safety system. Concussion is the story of a multi billion dollar sports powerhouse and a man who wants player safety to come first before money.

Concussion is the true story courage. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian born man who escaped the civil war in Nigeria and came to America in search of his dream. Omalu majored in forensic pathology. In 2002, he visited a morgue in Pittsburgh where he picked up a scalpel. At that time Pittsburgh had been mourning the loss of Mike Webster. Webster was considered one of the best football players all time. He was inducted into the hall of fame. Omalu wondered why Webster, who had such a great life, end up dead at the age of 50. After years of research, Omalu discovered something daunting, something that would change the face of American sports forever. Mike Webster had Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. CTE made Webster’s life miserable after football and he ultimately committed suicide. Omalu linked his CTE to the repeated hits Webster sustained while playing in the NFL. Omalu realized that the NFL jeopardizes their players week in and week out. They were letting their million dollar players live on the streets and overdose on pain killing drugs. His findings needed to be released to the public. He had a hard task at hand, but he was young, smart, and most importantly motivated to fight for what is right.

Concussion is a book of courage and acceptance. Omalu went on to tackle the NFL, the most powerful sports corporation in the world on player safety. It was groundbreaking what he did for two reasons: no one had ever gone after the NFL before and on top of that, Omalu barely knew what he was getting into because he is an immigrant. Who would believe him if he didn't know the legal system. He first published his findings in a magazine. Less than a week later the NFL asked for his article to be retracted. The NFL didn't want their players to utilize this information. The NFL revolves around the physical play between the athletes. Fans pay to watch players hit each other, so how can the League accept this research? If doing so, their threatening their multi billion dollar company. Omalu became frustrated at the stubborn NFL. Then he heard about a coalition sent by the NFL to research this topic. The doctors were team physicians, people who knew nothing about neurology. It took years until the NFL slowly changed their protocols. The coalition sent by NFL gathered the same information as Omalu and eventually the situation began to improve. The NFL finally accepted the information and made the necessary adjustments to improve the health of all players. Before, players would play even if they were injuries, they would be given painkillers. Now, any player who gets injuries in the head has to pass a concussion protocols delivered by the team medic. If he does not pass, he can't play. The NFL’s move to put player safety in front of money needed to come, and it came at a price. They waited so long and ruined their reputation in doing so. Over 20 players have died due to their traumatic brain injury. Even after this case, football is still America's favorite sport.

Playing sports is something that I take to my heart very seriously. I love the competition. I am an avid baseball and basketball player but at times I wonder about the safety of myself and others while we all compete. There is barely any body to body contact in baseball and basketball unlike Football, but a common theme exists between the three sports. Coaches play to win. At times I wonder, what if someone were to get injured in a huge game. They know they couldn't continue on, but their coach forces them to play. These instances make me speculate playing sports. I think the decision to play should ultimately come down to the player, the person who knows their health best.

The NFL, the strongest symbol in all of sports, came crashing down because they held secrets for too long. So what can secrets do to you? It only took one man to take them down. The National Football League was stubborn and unable to accept the fact that they ruined current and former players lives in order to maintain their great reputation. So what can secrets do to you? Maybe sharing them is the best option, after all holding them in could lead to your demise.

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