Brain Drain

Minnesotans are excited about the just approved $1 billion Vikings stadium. The stadium authority has announced who will conduct the environmental impact study and oversee construction. While the authority gets off to a fast start, is anyone thinking about how long-term health risks to players will affect the repayment risks for $500 million of public financing?
In his latest column, George Will warns the NFL and its fans haven’t faced the growing awareness of dangers of early onset depression and dementia to players taking repeated blows to the head. In the last year, three ex-players diagnosed with brain damage have committed suicide, leaving notes donating their brain tissue for medical research. “We are … rapidly reaching the point where playing football is like smoking cigarettes: The risks are well-known,” writes Will.
Many parents will begin to discourage their sons from playing football. High schools and colleges will find their football programs generate losses as the cost of liability insurance rises. Could a stadium authority be drawn into future liability lawsuits by injured players and their families? Will sees the problem as “the fiction that football can be fixed and still resemble the game fans relish.”
In 1975, Minnesota’s Clean Indoor Air Act led the nation in creating smoke-free workplaces, including the Vikings’ Metrodome. Now, Minnesotans should lead the discussion of how regulation could create a safer stadium workplace that educates fans and protects the brains of future NFL players. Follow the news at #NFLHealthSafety.

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