I had the chance yesterday to talk to a retired NFL player on a variety of topics.

In addition to writing books (which I very much enjoy) I am a scientist. As such I solve problems. That’s what is the most misunderstood thing about scientists. We aren’t magical, we don’t have some huge insight no one else has. We have a variety of problem solving tools and it is all a matter of what problem you focus on.

So, the problem in the back of my mind ever since my son broke his arm is protective equipment for sports.

Speaking on condition of anonymity the man I was talking to retired in the mid 80s and was on a team that won the Superbowl during his years (he was a starter).

He mentioned something multiple times that is kind of disturbing. Safety of players (down to high school) is not necessarily about keeping players safe and having a good time as a fan. It is about money.

How do I know?

Simple, I have been looking at injury statistics from an angle that I don’t suspect anyone has before. Head injuries are a real focus for the league, or so they claim. Why is it they are giving it lip service and perhaps not doing everything they can? Why do I believe that?

Turf.

Why do I say that?

Concussions happen more often on any other surface other than natural turf. On real grass the rate of head injuries does seem to go down, at least from what I can tell on publicly available injury data.

This was confirmed by the retired player.

He then explained to me why artificial turf got started. It had NOTHING to do with playing the game. It had everything to do with maintenance cost. It is cheaper for an owner to put in artificial turf than natural grass due to the maintenance. So, in other words, to squeeze out a slightly higher margin on their monthly profit statement, they put in turf that can and has been known to hurt the very players we all want to go watch.

I suspect I will be posting more on this subject soon. I’m not sure if this series will become a “how to fix injuries” series or a “NFL profit machine” series or a “players vs owners” series but one of those three is likely to happen as I dig into this.

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