The National Football League has been at the center of a controversy for some time now. With lawsuits being filed and the potential for these cases to cost the country's most popular sports league quite a bit of money, some fans in Chicago are taking notice.
According to many of the suits, the NFL is responsible for covering up thousands of potentially life-altering brain injuries. This allegation has been made by more than 4,000 former players and in some cases, the suit was filed on the behalf of players by relatives and loved ones - either because they are no longer alive or are not capable of filing for themselves.
The most well-known of these cases involve the suicides of several former athletes. According to officials, those players suffered from neurodegenerative conditions that affected their brains; this is often associated with concussions, which was the case for at least three of the former players who killed themselves.
The nature of the sport of football calls for big hits and sudden changes in momentum. The presence of such factors has led to countless concussions. Researchers have connected concussions to many neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. But the issue at hand is whether the NFL covered up the severity of such conditions and failed to inform players of the proper procedures when addressing such injuries.
Some are worried that the number of lawsuits that have been filed will cause the NFL an extreme amount of financial distress, potentially leading to the eventual shut down of the league. But few people - attorneys included - want to see the sport disappear. An estimated 110 million people will watch the Super Bowl this year, approximately a third of the American population. Because of its popularity, the NFL generates more than $9 billion per year.
Experts are expecting that the NFL will try to reach a settlement out of court, but if the league chooses to head to court, it may end up costing the professional sports organization more in the long run.
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, "Will Brain Injury Lawsuits Doom or Save the NFL?," Paul M. Barrett, Jan. 31, 2013