One of the biggest elephant-in-the-room topics related to sports AND safety is concussions and other forms of brain damage caused by playing football. There’s so much new information, so much we don’t understand, and a lot of politicking between players and football management (from high school to college to the NFL). It’s really come to the forefront of media coverage due to the health issues and/or suicides of prominent retired NFL players like Junior Seau.
Unfortunately, I have stayed away from the subject because there was so much information to digest and the implications of using Lean thinking with preventing injuries could be so big that it would take a lot more than a mere blog post to really hit the analysis properly.
However, a recent significant event from a 30,000 foot view has happened – the NFL has settled with a large (4500) contingent of former NFL players with a proposed settlement of $765 million to cover health issues related to football participation.
When the $765M figure was first floated through the media, many individuals had the initial thought of “Whoa, that’s great!”
Mine? “Um, how do you know that’s an accurate number? What about cases you don’t know about today?”
The fact remains that no one knows – not the players, the NFL, the lawyers, the doctors – what the actual costs will be of taking care of the former players (and future “former players) and making things “as close to right” as possible. Sure, $765M is a big number but coming up with a premature number like that is a huge guess – it could be too big, but it could also be far too small. From the article:
Payments for those cases alone raise questions about whether $675 million allocated to severely impaired players will be enough.
“It is a very valid concern,” said Jason Luckasevic, a Pittsburgh attorney who filed the first concussion-related lawsuit against the NFL in 2011 and represents about 500 former players. “It would appear as though there are not enough funds for those that are injured.”
This is the equivalent of Apple saying on January 1 of this year “We are spending $7B on iPhone and iPad production in 2013 – not a penny more, not a penny less.” Yeah, you might hit the supply/demand zero-point right on the nose…but how do you know how many iPhones or iPads to make and when should they be delivered? The fact remains that a huge sum of money does not make a forecast any more accurate.
Apple does not operate that way. They build relative to market demand (I assume). They test the waters and make a projection on the expected demand for the iPhone 5S, and create production schedules based on meeting that demand.
So what should the NFL do? They should meet the market demand. They should meet the accountability (but only the accountability) for which they are responsible but on an individualized basis.
How would they do this? Well, $765M is a large sum of money. Invest some of that money in a group of lawyers and experts that can treat each player (and his family) on a case-by-case basis and instead of just throwing the money around, actually work with the former players and their families to get “as close to right” as possible.
Instead, there’s a lot of politicking on whether the NFL is liable – the NFL players are also being told by arbiters to bring forth definitive evidence and analysis to prove that the NFL has a significant amount of liability in the cases.
The NFL is a multi-billion dollar enterprise, and it got there riding the backs of many of the players they are arguing against, players whose livelihoods have been severely hampered by the sacrifices they’ve made for the league. I’m not saying the NFL owes them everything, but certainly enough to make things right. They need to show some respect – treat the players like individuals instead of one giant cost.