By Benjamin Solomon, Staff Writer
The family of deceased former Patriots player Aaron Hernandez has recently decided to sue the NFL and the Patriots over his death. Why?
It was found in an autopsy that Hernandez had a severe case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a disease that is associated with football. When he died, Hernandez was discovered to be the youngest person to ever be diagnosed with the disease (it can only be diagnosed after death).
The law suit seeks to gain compensation for Hernandez’s death, with his estate’s lawyers arguing that the CTE caused him to kill himself. For context, Hernandez committed suicide while in prison after being convicted of killing one person and two days after he was acquitted of killing two others. CTE is said to cause difficulty controlling emotions and moderate dementia, according to the New York Times. This might even explain (though not directly link) some of Hernandez’s actions beyond just his suicide.
The link between CTE and the Patriots and the NFL, is that the lawyers assert that the two groups knew the disease could result from the physical trauma common to football.
This is an important case for the NFL, and for all of sports really. If Hernandez’s estate wins, it will establish legal precedent that sports injuries are the fault of the sports organizations in charge. It would be hard to keep this narrowed down to only CTE deaths. This would likely give grounds for many athletes to sue their former teams and leagues for reparations because of their injuries
If all it takes for the sports association to be responsible is knowledge of risk, what’s to stop an athlete for suing their school if they break their leg in a game? Previously common, accepted risks may become pushed onto the teams. This would almost certainly have some effect on professional sports.
Some of this blame-laying may have to do specifically with the disease CTE. It can be caused by concussions, which are an uncomfortable topic in the NFL.
The league knows concussions happen but they don’t do much more than require expensive helmets to attempt to protect against them. Is this enough?
The discussion doesn’t really exist, on a national scale. In the world of high school athletics, some parents and schools are questioning the safety of football, with the limited protection offered by available padding and helmets.
On the national scale, people seem to be afraid of the idea that their favorite sport may be killing and hurting people at an unacceptable rate. All sports have risks, but football seems to be riskier than other similarly common sports. Hernandez’s case is another reminder that maybe we should be questioning whether football is too dangerous to be letting anyone play, including our children.
Then again, if adult athletes are fine with the risks, should they be stopped from playing? Hardly. People aren’t forbidden from dangerous rock climbing or car racing, so those who want to play football shouldn’t be either. This leads the most important part of this case. Are athletes made well enough aware of the risk the of brain damage they may suffer? Is this the fault of the NFL and its teams?