There is an epidemic in the NFL. Actually there are two epidemics plagueing the most profitable sport on the planet. They are both extremely fixable, they are both by negligence of the participants. Both epidemics result in the same end concussions and brain injury causing poor quality of life, and suicide of former players. The first part of the epidemics starts on the field and can be fixed this season if the NFL really wants to. Its the helmets, the equipment. It's the players' fault. It really is. The players decided, about 15 years ago, and mainly "skill position" players, that they were too cool to wear their helmets properly. It's an epidemic that travels all the way to the high school level, but is most prevalent in the NFL. Players with helmets two sizes too big, or without all the "balloons" inflated, with chinstraps only halfway buckled, with chinstraps and ear pads so loose his helmet will literally slide off his head if he bows too far. We see helmets flying all over the field. This should NOT be happening. The football helmet (or any helmet for that matter) is not designed to come off while the chinstrap is secured. The NFL can fix this; and it's a simple fix. Put rules in that if a helmet flies off on the field and travels more than two yards without being thrown or kicked, it is a fifteen yard penalty, either on offense or defense. While the player are on the playing field, they may not have the chinstrap unbuckled, loosened, or have the helmet in any way which is not the prescribed means of use (i.e. on the top of the head, etc.) a 15 yard penalty and loss of down will be enforced. The only exception will be during team timeouts, in which the player would only be allowed to have the helmet off for the length of the timeout.
This would cut down on concussions by a very significant margin, especially considering the bulk of severe concussions are diagnosed to skill position players.
The other part of the epidemic is a little harder to eliminate, but even more important for the image of the NFL. It's the fact that a fair percentage of players in teh NFL have degrees in fields in which they will never use, because there is no job market or because they cannot execute the tasks. Another, small percentage, do not have any kind of degree at all. This is a major issue with quality of life. These players do not have anything besides football. This is simply not justifiable, as EVERY player in the NFL had/ has access to a quality degree in a field which has good job placement. Let's think of the players that are most prevalent:
Jamarcus Russell- living a very lower middle-class lifestyle, unemployed (last I heard), and absolutely no job prospects.
Ryan Leaf- Was doing construction, living middle to lower middle class, was incarcerated for drug possession.
Kurt Warner- Was bagging groceries after his first attempt in the NFL failed miserably.
Junior Seau- Was doing nothing- comitted suicide
These are a few examples of players whom went from the "limelight" of the NFL to nothing, and are suffering because they have nothing else to do.
Now lets see some other players
Robert Smith (MN Vikings RB)- Retired, pursued career in medicine, now analyst on ESPN college gameday.
Brent McClanahan- South High educator since 1994, was surprised with the 2012 National Football League's teacher of the year award. It recognizes former NFL players who are working professionally as teachers, and who make a profound impact on educational and life-skills development.
The NFL recognizes the top teacher whom was once an NFL player each year, showing that it is not just the concussions, but the pure quality of life after football. A player is not going to have any kind of quality of life if his major is, say, african american studies, then the player is not going to have anything after football, leading to depression, leading to suicide/ poor quality of life.
The point is, these players need to take advantage of the time they have in college to obtain a quality education, and the NFL really needs to start forcing players to have a quality, employable degree before being eligible for the draft. The average NFL career is what, 3 years. Even with a 25 million dollar contract, it's not enough just to bank in on a big paycheck and call it a life. These players need a career after football.
The biggest epidemics plaguing the NFL right now are quite preventable, and it would make hte NFL a lot more money, as these lawsuits would have no bearing if the players had a career after their playing days were gone.