Are Professional Sports Organizations Doing Enough to Protect Their Athletes?

By Dr. Jack Singer

by Dr. Jack Singer, Professional Sports Psychologist

Rafael NadalThe NFL has finally been forced to look into the frightening issue of brain damage, following years of anecdotal evidence regarding concussion syndrome among their football players.  As a result of autopsies of deceased players, we are learning new terms, such as “chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, that results from years of head pounding.

Lawsuits from the families of former NFL players, citing brain injuries caused by years of violent play, have finally forced the NFL to take a look at prevention.  But the efforts are painfully slow, partially because the violence itself is one of the attractions of football to fans.  How many deaths, suicides and spontaneous homicides will it take for the NFL to get really serious about this?  Perhaps dramatic increases in health, life and liability insurance premiums for the NFL will stimulate faster action.

And it’s not just publicized examples of suicides, murders, dementia and memory loss that result from so many head injuries that is the problem. There are less dramatic effects that plague so many ex players. For example, we see the sad sight of retired players hobbled on knees and legs ravaged by injury and mega surgeries.  We see ex-athletes become addicted to alcohol and medications in order to deal with their constant pain.

During my career, many professional football players come to me in order to help them recover from the mental toll that injuries place on them. They would frequently complain that their coaches ignored them once they get injured. It’s like “you can’t help us win now, so I don’t have time for you.”  Indeed, many players hide injuries as long as they can so that they will not be shelved on the scrap heap of inactive playing status.

As fans we are thrilled watching our favorite athletes on the field of play.  Rarely do we concern ourselves with the career ending injuries or long-term physical and emotional damage that our heroes suffer.

To its credit, the NFL has begun to put together clinics to address mental health and emotional issues for active and retired players.  Life Line, is a 24-hour crisis counseling service for current and former NFL players, coaches, team staff and family members.  But phone contact with counselors during a crisis is not the answer.  Preventive mental health services, conducted face to face is necessary!

Major League Baseball is on the forefront of prohibiting steroid use, primarily to make the playing field even among athletes, but the end result is protecting those athletes from the long term (as yet undetermined) effects of steroids.

Today, courageous professional tennis player, Rafael Nadal, chastised the ATP, claiming that increasing the number of hard court events shows little concern for the bodies of professional tennis players.  For future generations, it would be good to see a less aggressive tennis life,” he said. “Not only because of what happens during your career, but also because of what happens after your career, about how is your body when your tennis career is over.” 

Nadal worries that because of the pounding his body has taken, once his career ends, he may not even be able to play recreational tennis.

All professional sports associations need to look into these issues, now. Hopefully, other contact sports, such as hockey, boxing, and soccer will not wait for their players to sue for degenerative and brain-related injuries, before they are motivated to develop preventive strategies.

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About the Author:

Dr. Jack Singer is a professional speaker, trainer and psychologist. He has been speaking for and training Fortune 1000 companies, associations, CEO’s and elite athletes for 34 years. Among the association conventions which Dr. Jack has keynoted are those which serve financial planners.

Dr. Jack is a frequent guest on CNN, MSNBC, FOX SPORTS and countless radio talk shows across the U.S. and Canada. He is the author of “The Teacher’s Ultimate Stress Mastery Guide,” and several series of hypnotic audio programs, some specifically for athletes and some for anyone wanting to raise their self-confidence and esteem. To learn more about Dr. Singer’s speaking and consulting services, please visit and or call him in the U.S. at (800) 497-9880.

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