here's a quote from the times article:
But despite all the trappings of a modern business empire, football — or more specifically its labor system — harks back to the 19th century. Like miners and dock workers of that time, the N.F.L.’s work force has little protection against job loss. Workers frequently toil outdoors in freezing temperatures. And they often literally put their lives at risk, as we were reminded last week when a neuropathologist claimed that the suicide of a former N.F.L. player, Andre Waters, was linked to brain damage he sustained while playing football.
“It brings to mind the high-risk jobs of the earlier industrial period,” said Raymond Sauer, an economics professor at Clemson University and founder of the Sports Economist blog.
To be sure, football players, with their generous paychecks, do not seem as exploited as those rail-thin miners dusted with coal. But compared with athletes who ply their trades in two other big-money sports — basketball and baseball — they’re strictly blue collar.
on particular injuries themselves, from the chronicle:
Keith Fahnhorst has a more fundamental wish: standing up straight. Fahnhorst, a mainstay on the 49ers' offensive line in the 1970s and '80s, stood tall at 6-foot-6 in 1981, but now he walks hunched over because of spinal stenosis and degeneration of the disks in his neck and back.
Fahnhorst, 54, also totes routine baggage for a longtime offensive lineman: worn, bent hands from years of grappling along the line of scrimmage. Fahnhorst said his left thumb and forefinger remain numb to this day, as they remind him every time he tries to button his shirt.
now, of course these people made a lot of money, and most of them say they would do it again, even with all the risk of injury. but to me, that sentiment seems to miss the point. the players and teams should examine whether the men on the field need to be exposed to so much risk when they play the game. from the articles, i gleaned that things were somewhat worse in the 70s and 80s, when players would hop right back onto the field after sustaining a mild concussion or injury, for fear that they would be benched and out a job otherwise. today, it's better, but i also read about a player who said that the hits these days are even crazier because all the new padding gives a false sense of security.
after reading these articles, i get the distinct feeling that the players do not have good representation at the table whe they negotiate with teams. the majority of players don't get paid that much, are in the nfl only for a few years, and leave with few benefits and a high risk of long-term injury. no matter how much money they make, the players deserve better.
this got me wondering about other types of long-term injuries, specifically mental ones, that could creep up on people in other professions. like lawyers. but i need to read more before i make any comments...
finally, in case you were wondering how viscious this stuff can be, watch this video (but be warned, it's awful!):
UPDATE on 2/1/2007:
here are two follow-up stories in the new york times that appeared as a result of their original reporting:
Dark Days Follow Hard-Hitting Career in N.F.L.
Ex-Players Say Increase in Pensions Is Needed