The Indianapolis Star is reporting this morning that six former Colts are among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed last week against the NFL and helmet manufacturer Riddell. The defendants are charged with negligence, fraud and liability in diagnosing and treating players’ concussions, and the plaintiffs allege that the dangers of head trauma have been known, but concealed, since the 1920s. The former Colts involved in the filing include Jeff Burris, Vernon Maxwell, Newton Williams, Alvin Moore, Chuckie Miller and Chris Goode.
Concussion is an insidious injury that can leave a player functional long before he is ready to return to the field, and it’s understandable how long-term brain damage could result from repeated traumas. However, the NFL seems bent on re-writing the rule book in an effort to prevent concussions, and I think that’s misguided at best. Some of the recent changes, including those aimed at reducing contact with quarterback’s helmet and eliminating “launch” or “spear” contact may improve the situation marginally, but they also cause confusion and trepidation, which can’t be a good mindset for playing football. If you watch replays of many concussion-inducing plays, it’s clear that head-to-ground contact is a major cause of the injury, not necessarily any specific hitting technique.
Guys shouldn’t be hitting helmet-to-helmet, of course, but I think that’s more of a coaching issue and probably has a bigger impact on neck health than concussions. Until we have airbags in the turf or the NFL manages to eliminate tackling, concussions will still happen. The key to long-term recovery seems to be close monitoring and restriction of physical activity, areas where the league, to its credit, has also made strides.