Custodians of the Game: Ethical Considerations for Football Governing Bodies in Regulating Concussion Management

Neuroethics 8 (1):65-82 (2014)
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Concussion in professional football is a topic that has generated a significant amount of interest for many years, partly due in recent times to the filing of the class-action litigation and the uncapped compensation injury fund and settlement involving 4,500 retired professional players and the National Football League. The proceedings claimed that the NFL, as the governing body of American football, failed in its duty to protect players’ health during their professional playing careers by exposing players to risks of repetitive concussions and actively concealing links to potential long-term consequences. The NFL litigation sharpened the focus on the fundamental regulatory, governance and ethical considerations for football governing bodies, as self-regulated organisations, when governing the delicate balance between the dynamics of contact and collision sports, entertainment and player-health considerations. It also raised questions about public accountability and responsibilities to all levels of the sport through a framework of public health ethics. The NFL litigation and Congressional hearings have led to changes within the NFL and its regulatory and governance responses. A case study of the NFL responses to concussion in the sport of American football can provide insight into concussion regulation. Australian football governing bodies can align their regulatory and governance responses to concussion within their sports with the aim to avoid similar accusations, and circumvent a more coercive form of intervention



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