Ian Rapoport | Tags:
One of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s major points of focus has been player safety, and there is good reason. Concussion awareness seems to be at an all-time high, and we (as a public) are discussing football-related injuries more than ever. That, in itself, has made the game safer.
Unfortunately, some of the reason we are all talking about player safety was brought on by tough circumstances.
The high-profile passing of former Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau drew widespread sadness and led to a call by many to improve the care of former players. Ex-Rams OL Jacob Bell was one of them. When bad things happen, as was the case with Seau or ex-Bears safety Dave Duerson, we tend to make rash judgments. In fact, it’s better to err on the side of caution than the other way around, which the league is also doing by cracking down on head shots.
Players should be safer, retired players should have more help, retiring players should receive increased guidance, and that is the plan. But it’s also helpful to know… some facts. That’s what this recent study by Grantland provided.
More than anything, it cautioned against making judgments using only anecdotal evidence.
The study, done by Grantland’s math guru Bill Barnwell, had me thinking. Essentially, it compared the mortality rates of football players to that of their most relatable peer — baseball players (from 1959 to 1988). Going in, based on what I’d read and assumed, it was obvious football players died at a much greater rate. Instead… not so much. Turns out, 15.9 percent of baseball players had died from that pool, compared to 12.8 percent of football players.
Basically and crudely, fewer football players had died than their baseball counterparts.
Now, the study isn’t perfect. There is no consideration for quality of life, for instance, nor is there anything taking into account those who live with joint pain, arthritis, etc. Those issues are important. But it does make one do a double take when wondering how much we really know about any of this. It makes one caution against reading about a single instance and pretending to know the real answer.
It forces us to avoid rash generalizations that spring to consciousness after one prominent players tragically dies. Studies such as these provide perspective.
It also should curb such questions as these to former star athletes: Would you let your son play football? Parents have every right to limit their son (or daughter, I guess) from playing football. If I am so lucky to be put in that position one day, I will face the same decision (though I already know the answer in what should be a fun and eventful conversation with The Banktress if we are ever need to have it).
The other thing about these studies are, they are hard. They take time and patience, which is probably why it’s easier to jump to conclusions based on what you think rather than what actually is. It’s just helpful that now we have some facts.
Also, it’s good news for the NFL, news that should be trumpeted by all sides — NFL, NFLPA, etc. Pretty glad my assumption was wrong on this one.