TEXT OF STORY
JEREMY HOBSON: Today, the National Football League plans to send a memo to teams about changes in disciplinary action. This comes after the NFL fined three players $50,000 or more for dangerous hits in last Sunday’s games. The league is getting tougher about tackles, particularly when they involve hits to the head.
Marketplace’s Jeff Tyler reports.
JEFF TYLER: Last Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons went head to head against the Philadelphia Eagles.
TV ANNOUNCER: Third down and six — in trouble. Oh, big hit! On DeSean Jackson.
A head-butt knocked out Eagle receiver DeSean Jackson. It’s the kind of hit that has the NFL re-thinking how to protect its players. The League has imposed bigger fines. On NBC last Sunday, former safety Rodney Harrison said previous fines did not motivate him.
Rodney Harrison: Fining me five or ten grand really didn’t effect me. If they’re going to change the nature of these hits, you have to suspend guys.
Suspensions can cost a player hundreds of thousands of dollars. But they’re about more than lost income. Suspensions can also threaten a starting spot on the team. University of Chicago professor Allen Sanderson follows the economics of sports.
Allen Sanderson: If you’re suspended, your place can be taken temporarily or maybe permanently down the road by somebody else.
Beginning this weekend, the NFL will start suspending players for getting too violent on the field. At the same time, Sanderson says the league is walking a fine line, trying not to alienate fans by making football too tame.
Sanderson: The fans like hard hits. The violence sells.
Violence may sell. But it also carries a cost. Kevin Guskiewicz direct the Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Center at the University of North Carolina. He’s studied hundreds of retired NFL players.
Kevin Guskiewicz: Those with three or more concussions during their pro career were three times more likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression and five times more likely to experience cognitive impairment that is believed to be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.
But Guskiewicz says 9 out of 10 former players who enter his office say, even with all the injuries, they would still have played professional football.
I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.