Concussions are no joke.
The National Football League recognizes this. The league has made advancements in recent years to reduce head trauma for the sake of both in-season safety and post-football career health.
Donald Trump, however, thinks the moves by the NFL are ones of a wuss.
The Republican presidential nominee took a jab at concussions and the NFL on Oct. 12 when he made a side comment at a rally in Florida. A woman in the crowd passed out, but ended up returning for the end of the speech.
“See, we don’t go by these new, and very much softer, NFL rules,” Trump said upon seeing the woman’s return, according to the New York Daily News. “Concussions – ‘Uh oh, got a little ding on the head? No, no, you can’t play for the rest of the season’ – our people are tough.”
The remark loosely referred to an NFL rule that mandates players who fail the league’s concussion protocol cannot play again until they pass tests that show they no longer have concussion symptoms.
The concussion regulation was put in place because the NFL has borne the brunt of the blame for players experiencing the effects of head trauma after retirement.The NFL has been sued by roughly 5,000 former players over head injuries. That was not settled until April 2015, when the NFL won approval for a potential $1 billion clearance with those players, according to USA Today.
But the league can’t shake the link between football, brain disease and head trauma. In September 2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University came out with a study reporting that 87 out of 91 deceased former NFL players tested positive for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. This disease is believed to stem from repetitive trauma to the head, and can lead to memory loss, depression and dementia.
The fear of 3.3 years, the average career length of an NFL player, according to statista.com, impacting the quality of the rest of a player’s life is bringing another problem to the NFL: more and more players are retiring early. Data collected by ESPN shows that in 2015, 19 NFL players age 30 or younger retired from the league. Four years before that, the number was five.
In March 2015, top NFL rookie and 24-year-old Chris Borland retired from the NFL citing health concerns.
“From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk,” Borland told ESPN, referencing the multiple concussions he hasdsustained.
In September 2015, Green Bay Packers rookie wide receiver Adrian Coxson, 24, decided to retire after suffering a concussion.
“The next hit to my head could possibly kill me,” Coxson told the National Football Post.
This quip to the NFL by Trump wasn’t planned; it was said in response to an occurrence that he believes shows his supporters are stronger than NFL players. Of course, Trump has no idea what it is actually like to take an NFL hit to the head.
“The NFL, it’s very serious, man,” New York Jets safety Calvin Pryor told the Daily News. “There’s a lot of people who have head problems and a lot of injuries that can relate to football after this. So for him to say that, it’s not a good thing.”
For a league that has, and will continue to have, issues in decreasing the public perception and effects of head trauma and CTE after retirement, Trump is in no position to call the NFL’s attempt in reducing these instances “soft.” While the NFL still has lengths to go in showing its initiatives are effective in reducing concussions and CTE post-retirement, Trump has no reason to tell the organization to go back to the protocols that allowed more hits and trauma to the head.
Allowing players to play through concussions won’t make the NFL any greater.
Elizabeth Swinton is a television production major from Linden, N.J. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @eswint22.