Following word of Chris Borland's retirement, there has been plenty of discussion about issues of football safety. The game is not going anywhere, but I believe it is reasonable to at least be moderately concerned about the future of the game.
Naturally, the NFL is trying to get ahead of the curve with their own messaging. On Tuesday, the NFL's senior VP of Healthy and Safety Policy released this statement:
"We respect Chris Borland's decision and wish him all the best. Playing any sport is a personal decision. By any measure, football has never been safer and we continue to make progress with rule changes, safer tackling techniques at all levels of football, and better equipment, protocols and medical care for players. Concussions in NFL games were down 25 percent last year, continuing a three-year downward trend. We continue to make significant investments in independent research to advance the science and understanding of these issues. We are seeing a growing culture of safety. Everyone involved in the game knows that there is more work to do and player safety will continue to be our top priority."
Later in the evening, Dr. Joseph Maroon of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who is on the NFL's Head, Neck and Spine Committee, had this little gem. I'm looking for more video of his full comments, but this is certainly something else.
I get the point he is trying to make, but it strikes me as a PR talking point more than anything else. And that is part of the problem. The NFL views this as a PR issue, and not a medical issue. The NFL claims concern for player safety and long term health, but it comes across as more concern about people being pissed off about how the NFL handles player safety and long term player health. Some might say the NFL doesn't get it, but I think it is more a case of the NFL hoping the average fan is blind to certain realities.
NFL doctor just said that CTE is over-exaggerated. Seriously. This is the fucking Steelers' neurosurgeon and a consultant to the league.— Doug Farrar (@SI_DougFarrar) March 18, 2015
He calls CTE a "rare phenomena." Oy vay.— Doug Farrar (@SI_DougFarrar) March 18, 2015