For a long time now, the NFL has stayed in the dark ages regarding the risk of head injuries to its players. Fans enjoy the game because of the violence and, to some degree, danger involved, but the appearance of being too dangerous could hurt the league’s robust bottom line.
And so, the NFL is releasing a new poster/pamphlet that takes the issue of head injuries more seriously than the league had in the past. From the linked New York Times writeup:
The new document also warns players that repeated concussions “can change your life and your family’s life forever,” a clear nod to retired players’ wives who have spoken out on the issue, occasionally before Congress.
In contrast, how did the NFL used to word its concussion “warnings?”
It replaces a pamphlet given since 2007 that said, “Current research with professional athletes has not shown that having more than one or two concussions leads to permanent problems if each injury is treated properly,” and also left open the question of “if there are any long-term effects of concussion in N.F.L. athletes.”
Clearly, this is an improvement. We also like the addition of pictures of young athletes at the bottom of the poster, urging players to keep in mind that “other athletes are watching…”
What we don’t like as much about this poster: the production value. Yes, we get that the message is the most important thing, and that too many bells and whistles might detract from the point, but this thing (view that top part of it at left, the full version in the New York Times) looks tossed off, like something you’d find on the wall at a middle school.
NFL players are adults. They’re not going to take something seriously just because it’s placed in front of them. They’re professionals, so make this look professional, and like some real effort went into it.
Still, give some credit to Roger Goodell for taking a more realistic stance on head injuries. No matter how it looks, a message of “be smart, because concussions can cause permanent brain damage” is a lot safer than “hey, concussions might not even cause permanent brain damage!”