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Are NFL players aware of brain injury risk? Part one

In recent months, we have written multiple blog posts on the pending lawsuits filed by several former professional football players against the National Football League. In those suits, the plaintiffs accused the NFL of negligently or purposely ignoring the potential for brain injury to football players, causing them to suffer concussions and other head trauma that has already or likely will lead to long-term brain injuries. You can read more about those head injury lawsuits in our earlier blog posts.

Now, the plaintiffs and other football players who have complained about the league's lax approach toward brain injury prevention are facing some backlash. The reason for the negative attention is a recent Associated Press report in which players admit that they would try to conceal or ignore a potential concussion or similar injury rather than take themselves out of a game.

The AP report is the product of interviews with 44 NFL players about brain injuries. The players interviewed came from each of the 32 teams in the league and play a variety of positions. Although the players appeared to be more aware of the possible long-term effects of on-field head traumas, more than half stated that they would conceal an injury rather than remove themselves from a game. Some admitted that they have already done so.

The reasons that players want to stay in games are many. For some, it is a career consideration: no team is going to want a player that is constantly on the injured reserve list. Others don't want to let their teams down, especially during playoff games. And some just love playing football, and don't want to miss a minute.

Whatever the reason, this insistence on staying in the game could be doing long-term damage to players' brains. We will explore this topic in a second blog post tomorrow.

Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution, "Some NFL players still willing to hide concussions," Howard Fendrich, Dec. 25, 2011

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