ESPN posted its OTL Extra web-only segment continuing the television debate on football safety between Against Football author Steve Almond and Daniel J. Flynn, author of The War on Football and editor of Breitbart Sports.
That second guy happens to be me.
“There’s no way that this league is going to continue,” Almond reasoned during the player lawsuit against the league. He called the NFL a “profoundly dangerous workplace.”
I responded that it is—for the guys who build the stadiums, not the millionaires who play in them. In the 95 years of NFL play, never has a player died from a collision.
“Chris Borland played in a stadium—Levi Stadium—where you had two construction workers who died building Levi Stadium,” I explained of the 49ers rookie whose retirement sparked the whole conversation. “That is a dangerous workplace. Construction is a dangerous workplace, where you can actually die. A game, a football game, where no one has died in the NFL in almost a century of play—that is not a particularly dangerous workplace.”
Here’s the video for those interested in seeing the whole debate rather than my spin on it:
“We got it,” Almond exclaimed after hearing of worker deaths at Ford Field, AT&T Stadium, and the Georgia Dome. “We got it.” Unfortunately, just days after the debate another construction worker, this time in Minneapolis, died building an NFL stadium. I’m not sure that we got it.
Rather than predictions of what fates might befall NFL players, I pointed to actual scientific studies showing what has happened to NFL players. There’s more on that in our initial televised debate, which ESPN aired last weekend, which can be watched, along with a read of my take of Almond’s piece saying that it does a disservice to truth to hold debates on football safety (and global warming), here. When confronted on OTL Extra with the strange sound of a guy who just called the NFL guilty of peddling “junk science” actually citing the NFL to push a point, I thought it prudent to counter NFL insurance actuary predictions (made for the purpose of protecting the NFL in a lawsuit) with science’s findings of past-tense facts.
“If you look at the NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) study of 3,500 NFL players, they thought, based on the societal rates, that there would be 9.7 guys who came down with brain issues, with neurodegenerative issues, with sensory issues,” I explained. “In fact, there were 12 guys. So it was a little but higher. Instead of 9.7 guys dying from this, there were 12. I don’t think that’s cause for shutting down football.”
The federal study of NFL veterans who played five years or more between 1959 and 1988 expected 625 deaths based on prevailing rates for comparable men. Because of dramatically better health outcomes regarding heart disease, cancer, diabetes, respiratory illness, and other ailments, just 334 of the NFL players had died.
Football is good for you. Cable TV debates remain another matter. Watch at your own risk.