Will Football End? Not Because of Lawsuits

I was interviewed for a piece on Slate by Will Oremus on how it’s not the lawsuits for individuals that will cascade and make football go away.  Rather, it will be the lack of action by organizing groups and those that sanction the sport that could create suits against them that will make the game disappear.

For the record I love the sport of football, I truly believe it has its place in our culture and should not be “banned”.  Football has positive attributes that were discussed in the debate by Tim Green and Jason Whitlock, it too has its undesirable side as well (for the purpose of this blog it is injuries, catastrophic ones at that).

Oremus took a look from a different angle, one that makes a whole lot of sense;

It seems obvious that suing coaches and trainers like Dustin Fink, while holding institutions unaccountable, can’t be the answer to reforming football. Going after individual high schools and colleges isn’t much better. If the evidence that even small hits can cause permanent damage keeps mounting, people will start to ask whether fielding an amateur football team constitutes gross negligence in itself.

The answer to that question should come not from the courts but from high-school athletic conferences, scholastic sports associations, and the NCAA. As the research rolls in, they need to take a hard look at the aspects of the game that inflict the most damage and implement rule changes accordingly. If football ends someday, it should only be because the powers that oversee the sport have tried everything to make it safe and determined that it can’t be done—not because lawsuits have spooked schools into giving up.

It may seem like a leap but if you read the article you will notice that winning a single plaintiff suit is difficult at best unless you can prove willful and wanton, something that would be almost irreproachable if you have a certified athletic trainer on staff.  Sure you will get the occasional medical professional that will play outside the lines, but that can be said for many professions, hence the need for such rules.

What needs to get done is simple in my mind: proactive and creative steps to preserve the youth sports culture.  As I sated in my twitter rant today, it may be initially painful but it will result in desirable outcomes rather than the current outcomes we are seeing today just trying to hang on.

It amazes me that all these former players could have been just as outspoken on concussion issue at least two years ago, but chose not to

Seems pretty convenient that it’s now OK to talk about brain injury with the backdrop of Junior Seau. Sick of heads being in the sand […]

And only taking them out when it serves their best interest. There have been amazing players and people shunned and discredited for […]

Saying the same exact things a few years back. Now it’s OK to appreciate the brain injury for what it truly is? Let’s get ahead and […]

Get Proactive about something for once… Concussions would be a good issue… Even if it stings a bit… Do the right thing #C4CT


4 thoughts on “Will Football End? Not Because of Lawsuits

  1. Matt Chaney May 10, 2012 / 19:03

    Great focus on Dustin and his work, but a lousy Slate article by Oremus, irresponsible for the false sense of security it posits for schools and personnel with tackle football. Folks, follow people like this writer–who made a couple phone calls, talked to a lawyer who hasn’t done a brain-injury case of sport, and obviously didn’t even bother to read my current post, much less follow the robust References list–and you’re really rolling the dice. Oremus’ qualification of juvenile consent or assumption of risk as a quality defense is ridiculous, including in jurisdictions that afford some shield by flimsy statute, like Illinois. The writer does note a full-time ATC is vital but asserts school football cannot end through legal actions–Oremus must miss the fact a likely majority of school programs are without a full-time ATC and solid association with a physician! And critical ‘standard of care’ tort isn’t even addressed! Oremus also assumes every football player in the country is primarily insured and secondarily backed by solid school coverage for catastrophic care, and that schools are good for liability coverage. Hilarious! There may be more schools with ATCs than those with sound coverage for players they put in pads and helmet. Thousands of school players, if not million(s), are apparently uninsured when they walk on the field to start banging. Look, government Medicaid ain’t paying for football stupidity easily anymore, for the start of problems in insurance coverage. From my e-searching and following injury cases and gaping lack of coverage for prep players in 2011, the non-insured range from the California kid who waited five months for donated knee surgery and therapy to a host of kids in my 219 grave cases whose families, schools and communities are currently scrambling for paying huge medical bills. Funeral costs are still outstanding for one Georgia teen who was hospitalized for 10 days in ICU before dying. Yeah, his medical bills in six figures are only partially paid at this point, and thanks largely to relentless local fundraising since last summer. Get a clue, Oremus and Slate editors: this ain’t no topic to assign and post within hours or even a few days.

  2. Matt Chaney May 10, 2012 / 19:41

    A correction of mine, obviously, is to drop reference to ‘million(s)’ of ‘school’ players in the context… In addition, I take opportunity here to solicit anyone’s personal experiences or other information regarding problems with insurance coverage in contemporary American football, including expected cash expense for the injured and families. That was something I really wasn’t looking for myself, in beginning my e-searching of current injuries in the sport: the alarming amount of injured players without proper coverage. Looks like a national problem in the game. And yet lawsuits are no threat to tackle football in litigious America, much less an immediate concern? Unpaid medical bills equal lawsuits.

  3. A Concerned Mom May 10, 2012 / 19:51


    Irv Muchnick’s blog post has a NH Bar write up on the changing risk management issues for youth football programs. I just hope schools at least try to implement adequate concussion management programs to help keep student athletes safe. The Slate article seems to imply that there isn’t much incentive for schools to even try to keep athletes safe.

  4. A Concerned Mom May 11, 2012 / 16:23

    Interesting article – don’t think anyone can predict exactly what will happen at this point:


    ” … all of football is really on trial. That includes youth level, junior high school, high school, and college football. If the NFL and a helmet manufacturer lose this case, the whole structure of football will be shaken from the NFL down to kids’ football. The NFL depends on kids’ football as a feeder system into junior high school, then high school and colleges. The NFL gets ready-made players with years of experience. That could all change because school districts may decide running a football program is too costly in terms of insurance premiums and safety.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s