By now most have heard about the Study released yesterday by Boston University and the Veteran’s Administration. The results were alarming to many and what was to be expected by others. Including me.
I’ve been totally anal as it relates to Player Safety. I delayed getting this league rolling for over a year waiting to see how things progressed on the Safety Front. I have talked with the Coaches about No Pads and Helmets. Not just for Practice. But for Games as well. Between other Leagues like Aussie Rules Football and the 7-on-7 No Pads or Helmet League operating for years in the Northeast there’s some pretty solid data beginning to come in that their claims of it being safer may well be true.
If it turns out ditching the gear makes for Safer Football, I can say without hesitation, it makes for a larger potential audience as well as the “battle gear” has been the primary sticking point with the Game expanding beyond the US and Canada. “Real Men don’t wear pads” has been an Anti-American Football rallying cry for decades.
Regardless of how we move forward, this League is not going to be like any other. We will accept that the risks include many long-term issues that, while being known for about 100 years, have gone completely unaddressed. Football is in crisis not because people think it’s unsafe.
It’s in trouble because nobody trusts anyone in Football to tell the truth about how safe or unsafe it is.
What we know, we will say. Not in closed rooms surrounded by Lawyers scheming ways to avoid “fessing up”. But right on our websites, on our TV and Radio Stations and as we travel around meeting Families, Youth Teams and others. We’re going to “err” on the side of caution NOT on the side of “protecting” the Game by trying to play down bad news.
To this League, Bad News on Player Safety is one more piece on deciding how best to care for Player Safety. It’s one more bit of information to use in determining how best to not only protect our Players’ Health. But also how to help Parents and others decide what’s the best decisions for them.
What we learned from yesterday’s Report is when Players and Family believe a Player is suffering from CTE it has to be taken extremely seriously. Because there’s a very strong possibility or even probability that they’re right.
We also learned that anyone claiming Football is “safe” for younger Players and it’s only with the harder hitting and more accumulated hits that come from Playing Pro Ball that put Players at risk is completely wrong. While none of those who only Played Youth Football showed any signs of CTE we in this League will NOT assume that’s an “All Clear” signal at all. Particularly since other studies have shown the risks are there.
Others will seek long-term studies. That will not be this League. We will seek enhanced testing methods and treatment. We don’t need anyone to tell us exactly how big the problem is before we say there’s a problem.
There’s a problem. And that is how we will treat it from day one. And the second anyone in this league tries to change that approach, I’m shutting this thing down forever.
We will not cower to this challenge. We will tackle it head on. Always.