Believe it or not, college football spring games are already among us. When these games kick off, sportscasters will analyze, fans will tailgate, and thousands of football players will proudly take to the field. There is something that few may talk about though, and that is the health consequences of the game – consequences that many former players live with today.
I played college football at Missouri Southern State University (MSSU) from 1998 to 2002. MSSU is a small school, but the hits we took hardly were. We were challenged physically and mentally in practices and games. Our coaches taught us to lead with our heads when tackling opponents and, in the off-season, we would “joust” with padded sticks to prove how tough we were. Many of us were injured during these drills, especially from blows to the head.
Even worse, we were discouraged from reporting our injuries, with the consequences being the loss of our roster spots, or worse, our scholarships. When we did ask for help after particularly bad hits, we would often be labeled as soft, lazy, or dramatic. Sometimes we would see a doctor after a big hit, but if that person was not immediately available, our head injuries would simply go untreated. That happened often.
There are many other former college players who are experiencing similar symptoms, but they may not understand the cause. They certainly do not have the help they need to address these health issues because the NCAA has failed its players.
Sadly, college football players today cannot expect much different. The NCAA, which regulates college football, does little to protect or educate the players under its care about the risks of traumatic brain injuries. In fact, the organization has been outright irresponsible. It only cares about one thing: making money. It will do whatever it takes to keep its billions in revenue, even if that means depriving its athletes – children who will likely never play and receive compensation in the professional ranks – a healthy future.
This is why more than a hundred former college football players have filed a lawsuit against the NCAA. Former players are living with the terrifying consequences of the NCAA’s negligence on traumatic brain injuries. This lawsuit is about more than just us though. For the sake of the kids playing today and in the future, the NCAA must make amends and finally enact real protections and education for its student-athletes.
If given all the risks of the game, I never would have played. Most former players still love football and want to see the game get safer for current and future players. But for the game to thrive, it must change.
Juan Tabb played at Missouri Southern State University from 1998 to 2002. Tabb currently lives in suburban St. Louis, MO with his wife and three children. More than one hundred former college football players have filed a national class-action lawsuit against the NCAA for its negligence and failure to protect and educate college football players on the risks associated with traumatic brain injury.