LETTER TO THE EDITOR: NFL should make players aware of danger

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Junior Seau’s tragic death, along with the recent deaths of other former NFL players, is a harsh wake-up call about the inherent dangers of playing professional football (“Junior Seau’s San Diego-area restaurant closes,” Web, Wednesday).

In today’s NFL, players are bigger, faster and stronger than ever before - and that has only served to intensify the problem. It’s a matter of simple physics: Faster and larger players lead to more violent collisions on the field. Moreover, the problem has been exacerbated by advanced equipment, such as the hard-shell helmet which, although originally designed to protect players, is all too often used as a weapon to inflict vicious blows. The bottom line is we need to address the problem now or else the crisis of long-term degenerative health effects suffered by former NFL players will only get worse and threaten the very existence of the sport of football.

The ultimate trade-off in professional football has now become whether the wealth, fame and celebrity associated with being an NFL player is worth the price of long-term disability, dementia, depression and even premature death. Although a policy change was enacted by the NFL a couple years ago to fine and deter players from leading with their helmets, much more needs to be done.

The NFL should be required to insert informed consent clauses in every NFL player contract, explicitly discussing chronic traumatic encephalopathy and the long-term effects of repeated head trauma. Similarly, the NFLPA should include a presentation on the long-term effects of playing the game at each year’s rookie symposium.

Many pundits say that no player would voluntarily walk away from the game and give up the lucrative contract and celebrity. The retirement of Jacob Bell (a guard with the Cincinnati Bengals) last week proved that this commonly held notion is a fallacy. Bell became the first example of an active player from today’s generation who voluntarily retired due to his concern about the long-term health effects of playing professional football.

EUGENE T. LEE

President and CEO

ETL Associates Inc.

New York

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