Bioethics Blogs

Do we need more paternalism in the NFL to protect players from themselves?

by Keisha Ray, Ph.D.

This week the St. Louis Rams, a National Football League (NFL) team posted a picture on Twitter of player Wes Welker signing papers, making his departure from the Denver Broncos and his membership in the Rams organization official. Fans, coaches, players, sports commentators and writers typically weigh in on situations like Welker’s by commenting on how players who join new teams will impact their team and other teams in the division, or how players will change the dynamics of the entire NFL league. This time, however, when the Rams posted a picture of Welker thoughts turned to his at least six confirmed concussions (it is suspected that he has suffered at least ten concussions), three of which he received during a nine-month span in the NFL. Many articles expressed worry for Welker’s health. One writer wrote that Welker “might very well be killing himself by signing a one-year contract with the St. Louis Rams.” The same writer calls for his agent, family, friends, and former teammates to save Welker from himself and to “open his eyes.” In another article, a writer stated that “it’s a strange feeling, to hope that Wes Welker—a talented WR [wide receiver] and by all accounts a decent guy—never plays football again.”

The concern for Welker is in response to the knowledge that the NFL has acquired in the past decade or so about the dangers of repeated head trauma and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a degenerative brain disorder that can lead to depression and suicide as was the case with well-known NFL player Junior Seau.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.