When is it Time to Get the Hook?

UnconsciousHave you ever seen a boxing match or gone to an MMA fight? OK, if neither is your cup of tea how about a ski  jump competition, downhill, a hockey game or even a soccer match? In any of those events if a player is knocked out or badly concussed, they are generally out of the competition. Is that a fair enough scenario?

Have you ever seen a boxing match or gone to an MMA fight where a fighter was in such bad shape that the referee stopped the fight? Of course you have, the referee is given such power. Same holds true with many other sports. If a man or woman is badly injured on the field of play, protocols are in place to stop the action. If its bad enough, the career can — or should be over.

I don’t want to leave!

One last question. Have you ever been to a sporting event when the player was injured, the coach or trainer wanted to “pull them,” and the player objected? Of course you have.  The player wants to be on the field, and everyone in the stadium knows it, but anyone with an ounce of common sense knows the player is done.

Of all sports, professional and collegiate football leagues are walking on the most eggshells. It is a brutally tough sport. Most of us know fully well that the game is filled with risks. We can pretend the risks aren’t there. We can also pretend, of course, that the injuries, dementia and the suicides “just happened” due to other factors; like the hotdogs or climate change or the uniform colors or blame the president. But we all know better.

We love the sport of football, we wish it no harm, but unless the NFL and the NFLPA steps up to the plate (yes I know, wrong sport), sooner or later the game as we know it will come to an end. It will happen because common sense and not ego must be in charge.

The human body can only take so much. Whether the player or the coach or the school or association or conference wants to admit it or not, one too many hits is too much; one too many injuries is too much. There needs to be a hook to save the player from him/herself.

Have you ever seen a player who stayed in for one too many hits? I have. It’s not pretty. Do you know where the fans of those banged-up, beat-up players are after the guy retires? Neither do I.

There is a lot of pressure to win. Sports is a business, and all that jazz, but ultimately someone has to take responsibility for a player who is “playing on fumes.” There needs to be a hook to save the player from him/herself.

There is no sport on earth that has generated as many platitudes as football. There is also no sport on earth that has buried its head in the sand as much as football. Unless the sport of football finds a way to medically police itself, I fully expect it to evolve into something else. This will not be a game to last into perpetuity.

Ethically, I believe it is time for an independent medical body to yank a player who has taken too many hits. This should not be based on “time in service,” but on physical deterioration. Oh, I can hear the macho bellows now, the offended and the invested. There should be an appeal process, to be sure but not unlimited appeals. The league can even find a system of lucrative cash-outs for players deemed too beat up. Still…there needs to be a hook to save the player from him/herself.

You’re taking away my right to work!

Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. But don’t act as though it doesn’t happen in virtually any other profession on earth. Whether someone is an airline pilot, a police officer, crane operator, a brain surgeon or an infantry officer, there are safeguards in place to protect the professional as well as those who could bear the responsibility or the effects of that professional’s actions.

The alternative is to do nothing, but with each “do nothing injury,” the pressure will mount. If you love football, this could be a way to save the game from itself.

Sports Ethics LLC

Chuck Gallagher, Co-Founder and President    (828) 244-1400

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