The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Business as Usual:
College Football and Concussions

Dec 8, 2014

A class action lawsuit brought against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) over concussions was settled in November. “Who will get paid what” was the only concern of the trial. The NCAA is to pay 75 million dollars – not to players, but to lawyers and research into head injuries, according to the news.

However, medical research has already shown again and again that concussions can lead to memory impairment, Alzheimer's disease, depression and suicide. And the NCAA has long known that there are two major contributors to concussions: the number of times a person is hit and how soon a player returns to play. It’s ironic – the NCAA was established 100 years ago to prevent football injuries and deaths.

But, the NCAA did nothing when Michigan quarterback Shane Morris suffered a strong blow to the head during a game, a concussion that was obvious even to spectators. Michigan’s coaching staff and medical personnel put Morris back into the game minutes after he was hit.

Both management of the college teams and the NCAA know very well that a young person’s brain can be damaged permanently due to hits during practices and games. But their aim seems to be to avoid doing anything about it.

This is because college football is a lucrative business. The NCAA, a so-called non-profit, makes huge sums of money from TV revenues and ticket sales. The big college teams are each worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In 2010, college teams pocketed more than one billion dollars in profits.

The NCAA and the college teams don’t like this bonanza interrupted for any reason, even death. In 2011, Derek Sheely, 22, collapsed during a practice at Frostburg State in Maryland after complaining of a headache to his coaches. He died six days later.

Recently, an Ohio State football player disappeared before a game, and was found dead, an apparent suicide. He left a note to his family referring to not being able to stand excruciating headaches.

Sheely’s father summed it up, “I think there’s a big gap in what [college officials] care about. It’s pretty obvious. They haven’t even been very subtle about what they care about. They will protect the safety of their pocketbook.”