NFL Owners Compare Injury Risks To Taking Aspirin

| by Michael Allen
Jim Irsay with George W. BushJim Irsay with George W. Bush

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay (pictured with former U.S. president George W. Bush) recently compared the risk of NFL injuries to taking aspirin during an interview at the NFL owners’ annual meeting about player health and safety issues.

“I believe this: that the game has always been a risk [...]," Irsay told Sports Business Daily Journal. "Look at it. You take an aspirin, I take an aspirin, it might give you extreme side effects of illness and your body … may reject it, where I would be fine. So there is so much we don’t know.”

Irsay also tried to compare NFL injures to bobsledding.

“Look at it: When you get into Olympic bobsledding — I could sit down and name a dozen different sports — it has always been a known factor that you know you are going in there and you are taking a risk,” Irsay insisted.

Irsay went on to say that "no one" was aware of long-term serious injuries during football games back when he was playing.

“One thing I have always felt strongly about, that [is] to say, ‘Oh, someone knew something and they didn’t tell way back in the ’60s or ’70s,’ that’s just not true," Irsay stated. "I was there. I know that’s a lie. You know no one knew anything. The only thing we know and always knew is when you strap on that helmet and go out on the field, boy you know you are taking a risk, but the reward is something. It’s worth it.”

Irsay told the sports website that alcoholism and addiction were supposedly being pushed to the side because of news about NFL injures, and insisted that reports of these injuries were being used by the media to sell newspapers and get ratings (which is how the NFL makes millions via TV licensing).

Jeff Miller, the NFL's executive vice president for health and safety policy, was asked by Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois on March 14 if "there is a link between football and degenerative brain disorders," such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), noted NBC News.

"Certainly, [Dr. Ann McKee of Boston University's] research shows that a number of retired NFL players were diagnosed with CTE, so the answer to that question is certainly yes," Miller said.

Schakowsky asked Miller, again, "Is there a link?" and Miller said, "Sure," before adding that he [Miller] was not a doctor.

About one week after Miller said there was a link, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said there was a lack of scientific evidence during the owners' meeting, reported the Washington Post:

We don’t have that knowledge and background and scientifically, [...] there’s no way in the world to say you have a relationship relative to anything here. There’s no research. There’s no data ... We’re not disagreeing.

We’re just basically saying the same thing. We’re doing a lot more. It’s the kind of thing that you want to work … to prevent injury. A big part of this is prevention. But the other part of it is to basically understand that we don’t know or have any idea that there is a consequence as to any type of head injury in the future.

That has to have a lot of research, just as the heart did 50 years ago. And certainly everybody that had heart issues 50 years ago didn’t live a normal life. Nature takes care of that. So no, I didn’t think at all that his statements altered anything ... It didn’t alter anything about where we are.

After he was asked by a reporter if he thought there was enough medical data to link football injuries to long term brain problems, Jones also used the aspirin comparison:

No, that’s absurd. There’s no data that in any way creates a knowledge. There’s no way that you could have made a comment that there is an association and some type of assertion.

In most things, you have to back it up by studies. And in this particular case, we all know how medicine is. Medicine is evolving. I grew up being told that aspirin was not good. I’m told that one a day is good for you ... I’m saying that changed over the years as we’ve had more research and knowledge.

So we are very supportive of the research ... We have for years been involved in trying to make it safer, safer as it pertains to head injury. We have millions of people that have played this game, have millions of people that are at various ages right now that have no issues at all.

None at all. So that’s where we are. That didn’t alter at all what we’re doing about it. We’re gonna do everything we can to understand it better and make it safer.

Sources: Sports Business Daily Journal, Washington Post, NBC News / Photo credit: White House Archives 

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