Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ten ways to make NFL players safer

Mike Freeman at has some ideas on how to make playing professional football safer; and I have often thought about #4 on his list -- it will never happen, but could be a real difference maker.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Let the wagering begin

Yahoo! Sports is reporting that Cantor Gaming, an affiliate of Cantor Fitzgerald, has released the point spreads for all NFL regular season games; so naturally we had to see where the experts think the Steelers are strong and where they are not.  Let the analysis begin:

Week 1 : Steelers (+2) at Denver Broncos
The Steelers are 5-9-1, all-time, in the regular season versus Denver; and are 1-2 on the road versus Peyton Manning

Week 2 : New York Jets (+4.5) at Steelers
The Steelers are 8-1 versus the Jets in Pittsburgh

Week 3 : Steelers (-3) at Oakland Raiders
Since 2000 the Steelers are 4-3 versus Oakland, and only one of those games was played in Oakland -- a 13-20 loss in 2006

Week 4 : Bye Week

Week 5 : Philadelphia Eagles (+1) at Steelers
Michael Vick in Pittsbugh?  Everyone flashback to the 34-34 debacle in 2002

Week 6 : Steelers (-1.5) at Tennessee Titans
This will be the 13th time this two teams have met since 2000, and the 8th time they have played in Nashville

Week 7 : Steelers (-1.5) at Cincinnati Bengals
Road favorites two weeks in a row?

Week 8 : Washington Redskins (+7) at Steelers
RGIII mania makes a stop in the Steel City! The Redskins have not won a game in Pittsburgh since 1985

Week 9 : Steelers (+3) at New York Giants
The Steelers have faced both New York teams in the same season twice before -- 2000 and 2004 -- and are 3-1 in regular season games

Week 10: Kansas City Chiefs (+7) at Steelers
These teams have played 11 times since 1992, and this will be the Chiefs' second visit to Pittsburgh during that time

Week 11: Baltimore Ravens (+3) at Steelers
The late meetings may help Terrell Suggs be ready for this game

Week 12: Steelers (-6) at Cleveland Browns
There should be wagering as to who the Browns' quarterback will be by this point of the season

Week 13: Steelers (+3) at Baltimore Ravens
Already a must win game

Week 14: San Diego Chargers (+3.5) at Steelers
With all the divisional games in this stretch will the Steelers look past this one?

Week 15: Steelers (+1.5) at Dallas Cowboys
Steelers are 5-8 all-time in Dallas, 2-2 in their last four on the road against the Cowboys

Week 16: Cincinnati Bengals (+6) at Steelers
Steelers are 7-4 in their last 11 games at home versus Cincinnati

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The NFL, the NIOSH, and the life-expectancy of players

The National Football League used its considerable public relations wherewithal to ensure that a newly published study indicating that former NFL players live longer than the average person received plenty of attention.  But as in most things the devil is in the details; and it appears that the league is playing a cynical game with the focus of the study.

An abstract of the study -- conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH, (which can be found here or read the entire article here) -- makes it clear that the researchers sole focus centered on Body Mass Index (BMI), "risk factor for death (mortality) and heart disease," and "what happens when former athletes are no longer conditioning at their playing-day levels?"

As the league highlights, those players who participated in the study had a lower mortality rate than the average person.  More specifically, players had experienced fewer cancer-related deaths than average.  So much for the good news.

More alarming however are some of the following statistics offered by the researchers, and ignored by the league's press release:

  • "Players who had a playing-time BMI of 30 or more had twice the risk of death from heart disease compared to other players. Similar findings have been noted in other studies. Offensive and defensive linemen were more likely to have a BMI greater than 30. A BMI of 30 or more is considered obese in the general population whereas a healthy BMI is between 18.5-24.9."
  • "African American players had a 69% higher risk of death from heart disease compared to Caucasian players. The study controlled for player size and position and determined that those factors are not the reason for this difference."
  • "Defensive linemen had a 42% higher risk of death from heart disease compared to men in the general population. A total of 41 defensive linemen died of heart disease, when we anticipated 29 deaths based on estimates from the general population." 
The recent death of Junior Seau, and the renewed attention it brought to players and traumatic brain injury, was one of those tragic events that shines a spotlight on what is wrong with professional football.  Furthermore, the NFL's public relations maneuver ignores the very real risks to its African-American players, especially those that play along the interior line (someone should let Casey Hampton know about this study!).  By cherry-picking numbers from a study that had nothing to do with that issue, the league brings discredit to itself in an attempt to manipulate headlines.

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