Editor’s note: This blog is written by Richard Anderson, Business Program Chair, Minnesota School of Business – Shakopee.
Why am I not surprised the NFL is getting sued by former players because the game is rough and can cause head injuries? Football is rough . . . duh!!! Albert Schweitzer once said “Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will – his personal responsibility.” In essence, quit crying how there was nothing I could have done and step up to the plate. So, how is this possible that the NFL could possibly have any legal responsibility for player concussions and the effect they have on players later in their life?
Well, business law is pretty straight forward. The claimant must show that the employer was in breach of his/her duty; whether this was the case or not is determined by reference to what is expected of a reasonable employer (LatimerVAEC1953). He/she must also show that the employer’s breach of this duty was the cause of his injury.
So, the courts will have to decide a couple things: 1) did the NFL withhold pertinent information from players that caused the player to accept risk without knowledge? This one seems a bit farfetched for even me. As far back as 1893, a player, Reeves, was told by a Navy doctor that he must give up football or risk death from another kick in the head. He could go insane immediately (now I know my problem). Reeves went to a local shoemaker/blacksmith and had a crude leather helmet fabricated to protect his skull. Ever since, while we may not have known all the complications associated with head trauma, we certainly knew it was dangerous. A player arguing “how could I know?” sounds like some of the excuses I get from my beloved students when an assignment isn’t completed on time – “Whataaa you mean it was due today. I thought that date was an approximation of when it was due.”
The second finding of fact has to be 2) a reasonable employer would have prevented the employee from engaging is such activity. In other words, the NFL should have modified the rules of the game to prevent potential head injuries by a) preventing running, b) not allowing any touching of any kind, c) providing uniforms that fully protect the entire body, and d) those uniforms must be able to sustain getting hit by a freight train at 60 mph with no sustainable damage. I clearly can see that happening, and I bet everybody reading this (all two of you if you exclude my wife who I make read this blog) would buy tickets at $100 a pop to see that game.
Finally, the third finding of fact has to be 3) this breach by the employer directly caused the injury to occur. Not the fact that you played Pee Wee football, high school football, college football, got smacked in the head by your parents (boy this is really starting to explain my weird behavior), or fell off your bike as a child (FACT: more kids broke bones, sustained head injuries or dislocated joints riding bicycles than any other sport). I also found out there were more than 20,000 bumps, breaks, bruises, scrapes, and much worse from cheerleading last year. Some of the more serious injuries: concussions and spinal injuries from falling off the top of the pyramid or a broken leg from doing a basket toss. I’m not trying to scare any of you cheerleaders off or anything – but, we’re worried about football!!
Anyway, I digress. These kinds of lawsuits just bug me. I know we all are aware of the asbestos health hazards. Actually, only blue (which was banned in the USA as of 1946 but used in naval shipyards – don’t you just love our Government) causes cancer and lung disease. White which is the asbestos used commercially has never shown in any tests to cause any health hazards. But we keep suing manufactures and winning. I suspect nothing less here.
I played basketball as a youth and went to college on a basketball scholarship. I have literally broken every finger I have (I think ten), arms, ankles and have prepatellar bursitis (water on the knee). I also have been hit in the head and fallen on my head several times – thank heavens I have little upstairs to slosh around in my cranium, or I could have had a concussion. No one told me basketball was dangerous. In fact, I was told it was a non-contact sport! What a lark. Gee, maybe I could sue Michigan State for my lack of IQ. Had to be from all the bumps to my head.
As Schweitzer said, it’s all about personal responsibility.
So students, turn in those assignments on time!!!!!!