by Tyler Cowen
on March 28, 2012 at 12:18 pm
1. Why they haven’t been fired, and comments from Arnold Kling.
2. The slippery slope.
3. The Mark Rypien suit against the NFL.
4. Technology and the Great Divergence.
5. Economic growth in Mozambique.
1. They don’t know.
#1 tells us more about the commenters of EconLog, and their feeling of superiroity and self-importance, rather than anything interesting about labor markets.
I was thinking the same thing. One wonders how many of the commenters have coworkers who look at them and silently grumble that they’re always on the web commenting on stuff when they should be doing work
I’ve always felt pretty secure knowing that I’ve never really been shown any loyalty, so if they could find someone better they would.
#1: assuming a worker falls in “ZMP zone”, whose responsibility is? sometimes workers are slackers that need to be fired. sometimes the manager causes the problem cause he is and idiot that knows nothing about organizing people. worker or manager?
#3: police officers, lumberjacks, oil workers have risky jobs, they have pension & health care fund. why football player’s don´t?
Football players have a pension fund.
didn’t know about that =), now wondering if the fund covers “medical monitoring, as well as compensation and financial recovery” as stated in the article
#3. If it turns out that significant traumatic brain injury is a common feature rather than an occasional accident in football, I will stop watching. I don’t want to support entertainments that inpose real harms on living creatures. I don’t watch bullfighting, cockfighting, etc.
I remember many football fans reacting with disgust to the revelation of Michael Vick’s dogfighting. I am concerned that the game of football is doing to Michael Vick what Vick did to the dogs.
Bulls and cocks can’t give consent; football players can. OTOH, lack of consent hasn’t stopped me from eating beef.
Ultimately, “cruelty” is quite a subjective concept.
Many of the same people that can’t abide cockfighting, which is, after all, normal behavior for a rooster, engage in “catch & release” fishing, what amounts to fish torture, for their own pleasure. Since the screaming of the fish can’t be heard, I guess it’s OK.
But ultimately the fish are unharmed, while the roosters die, right?
Half of the participants in cock fights die, the winners move on, ultimately to stud duty. Of course 100% of the chickens on old McDonald’s farm become some form deceased dinner. Studies show that a large percentage of the fish caught and released do not survive the experience. Mortality isn’t the issue. In both cock fighting and sport fishing, humans are entertained by the suffering of animals, yet the former is generally illegal and the latter is accepted and even encouraged by the state.
anybody knows if the football player contract states clearly “brain damage risk” as a possible outcome from the job? you can not consent what you don’t know
Anyone who has ever played football, even neighborhood football, understands that risk.
The bigger and faster the players, the greater the risk – equipment be damned.
The only reason you wouldn’t know it would be because it is rare enough and far enough into the future that it’s not common knowledge. If it’s not common enough then how much of a problem is it? I played tackle, no pads football twice, got smacked in the head both times and never did that again.
It could be common, but not obvious such as getting strokes and other neurological disorders 0.8 years earlier on average for every 15 games played. But it wouldn’t be known until comprehensive studies were done which might be part of the rational for the suit, or at least requested settlement item.
The article quotes the lawsuit as:
“NFL was aware of the dangers and risks of “repetitive traumatic brain injuries and concussions for decades, but deliberately ignored and actively concealed” the information, court documents say.”
Wasn’t everyone aware that concussions have risks? At least the medical community surely was.
To my mind, this was more in the line of a “professional risk” that was accepted. It’s like saying nobody was aware stuntmen or ice-fishermen undertake risky activities.
There’s lots of risky things people do in spite of knowing they are risky.
Right now the Mayo clinic says
Concussions are common, particularly if you play a contact sport, such as football. But every concussion injures your brain to some extent. This injury needs time and rest to heal properly. Luckily, most concussive traumatic brain injuries are mild, and people usually recover fully.
Yes every NFL football player should be expected to know their chances of brain damage are way above the average office worker, but its not necessarily obvious that they should have known that repeated concussions were going to have an accumulative affect, and not that just rest for a week or two and it will be healed just like the slightly pulled hamstring. Maybe the trial will show that the league provided sufficient disclosure.
If nobody knew this, then why is the NFL expected to know it?
Also, nobody doesn’t know the football involves hard hits, injuries and concussions. If people are ignorant of physiology rather than ignorant of the football that is different than the case of something like smoking where you might not know of the damage being caused. In football, having your bell rung is your body trying to tell you to quit it.
The NFL might have known because they did a survey of former players for a potential where are they now special. Or maybe there was a token disability payout in all NFL contracts so that the NFL would have known of all the applicants. Maybe then NFL in fact didn’t know anymore than anybody else.
I’m not saying the players should prevail or even likely to prevail, but I am saying it isn’t obvious that the suit is without merit.
If the Mayo Clinic says people usually recover fully from concussions then it isn’t obvious that getting your bell rung means stop playing football anymore than a knee sprain means never run another marathon.
Everything I’ve heard is it’s not the concussions that do it, but the cumulative effects of repeated hits. I believe Virginia Tech has started tracking the total # of hits each player gets over the entire *season* and limits practice time if a player goes over his quota.
Yes, a lot of the recent evidence suggests that the worst damage is on the lines, where big “decleating” style hits are uncommon but some level of helmet-to-helmet to contact occurs on every play. The marginal effect of these many smaller hits outweigh the effect of the rare, but severe, hit. Although those are bad too.
#3. While I feel for the guys who have to live with the injuries this whole concussion thing is just a big mess. Despite all the lawsuits and hand wringing no one actually knows exactly what causes the injuries. Is it one big hit? A lot of little ones? Some combination? It’s not exactly clear what is the exact cause or if certain people have a greater or less risk than others. It’s all currently just correlation right now as I understand it. Also I believe you can’t accurately diagnose the problem until the person is dead and you can do an autopsy on the brain. This makes it so you only have the word of the victim in question as to their symptoms and severity.
What also seems to be lost in the debate is all these football players played in both high school and college programs. Do those programs bear some responsibility as well? Of course they don’t have the pockets of the NFL and probably aren’t as easy to sue.
Player decisions also affected this. Many players have been quoted as shrugging off concussions or lying about their condition so they could go back out on the field. Is that the NFL’s fault? Where was the Player’s Union in all of this? Did they do an adequate job lobbying for their member’s safety?
Also, it’s not like there’s nothing else unusual about pro football players besides their getting hit on the head. They likely spent years on steroids, growth hormone, insulin, stimulants, EPO, and painkillers. They are likely larger and more aggressive than the average joe. They are/were richer. They flew in planes more. They did a whole bunch of training and exercise that did not involve getting hit on the head.
Occam’s Razor makes you suspect head injury. But there are plenty of confounds.
What I wonder is if NFL is subject to a lawsuit how do the Boxing League organizers ever get away with it?
It might turn out to matter when the league became aware of the risks and when they required players to sign off on the risks in their contracts. If there’s significant separation between the two, that could be a problem. My understanding is that the tobacco lawsuits rested on something like that.
So if boxing always had a “significant risk of head injury” clause in its contracts, maybe it’s okay because of that. I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer.
Not a legal opinion, but my mom wouldn’t let me play football because people get injured. Now we have new information about a subtle injury in a sport that people play and watch BECAUSE it’s violent. It’s just odd.
One would think NBA and MLB players would have similar problems.
Has anyone checked?
Why? Because they rarely get hit in the head?
My guess would be, if there’s another cause it’s either the drug regimens, which are probably less extreme in pro sports that aren’t football, but are still probably pretty serious, and were especially so in the 80s and 90s, or it’s serious weight training. Weight training, while much safer statistically than sports like running or soccer (which is surprisingly dangerous) has been known to be associated with strokes. My understanding is that it’s vanishingly rare, but maybe there’s some lesser degree effect? And pro athletes are probably pushing the boundaries there too, especially in football.
If there’s a cause other than big or small-but-repeated head injury, that’s where I’d start looking. So you’d expect those to show up to a lesser extent in other pro sports. You could also look to see if there was some dose response to the various stimuli.
> Weight training, while much safer statistically than sports like running or soccer (which is surprisingly dangerous) has
> been known to be associated with strokes.
You know, before I quote that, while I’ve seen safety results in academic studies for running and soccer that are quite bad, and for weight training that are quite good, the stroke association is just something I heard about – I don’t have a good source and it would not surprise me if it turned out to be a myth.
Soccer players also get hit in the head a lot. These balls come flying from twenty feet up in the air, then they bash them with their noggin and send it back twenty feet up in the air.
I suspect soccer balls flex and are lighter, hence cause far less damage.
The whole point of helmets is that they flex and don’t transmit shock well. I don’t think soccer is categorically different.
I would like very much to have firmer bounds on what sort of impact causes problems. Am I at risk if I go running on a hard surface? Clearly a normal concussion is a problem, but where’s the boundary?
#1 I find it odd that either Bryan or Tyler feels this is a remotely interesting question at this point.
Not only have the reasons that ZMP workers don’t get fired always been obvious to anyone who has ever had a job, they have, unless I’m much mistaken, been really well documented now.
In (my guess of) descending order of importance: principal/agent conflicts (bosses really have little incentive to maximize company profits), potential legal costs, potential office demoralization, extreme cost of training new people (and multiyear wait for their productivity to get up to speed in any complex job), extreme uncertainty in evaluating how applicant will eventually preform, labor hoarding for coming upturn.
I’m sure there are more. The real question is how anyone who doesn’t punch people in the office (or do something similarly extreme) ever manages to get individually fired (rather than caught in layoffs that sack a good percentage of folks).
Exactly. Layoffs are the new firings. Companies build up lots of bloat in the good times and then sack it all in the lean times.
And probably rightly so. In good times rank employees. Give them years to move or crystallize in place in their ranking. In bad times, select an arbitrary cutoff percentage. Much else is unknowable.
#1 – In some cases, because they have tenure
They have tenure because it’s not much of a problem in academia. First, you are independent, and thus by design and nature aren’t a huge drag on fellow employees. Second, there is a relatively high degree of merit pay in academia. If you don’t bring in funding from extremely competitive things like grants then you get paid at the low end. Etc.
But of course the mere existence of university tenure is also a testament to how “easy” it is to fire people at research universities who have not obtained tenure. (In most departments it’s up or out. You can’t be assistant professor for 15 years). How many white collar jobs have as high firing rates as decent universities?
Plenty. The “up or out” system is hardly unique to academia. It’s almost exactly the same at many law firms, where if you don’t make partner after 7 years you’re asked to leave. Academia just decided to formalize the system in a uniquely rigid way.
You mean like the GE idea that you fire the bottom 10 percent?
Or was it that you retain the top 10%? 🙂
Not plenty. First, half of all Phds don’t graduate. These are in the population too. Then most don’t get entry-level professor jobs. All tolled the attrition rate is something nearer to 99% than 10%. Finally, you get the brass ring of tenure and it’s both not as good as you thought and everybody has the mistaken belief you got something for free.
And also, in the end, tenure is just the name that academia gives to what we are talking about industry already doing just without a name for it.
“half of all Phds don’t graduate”
100% of phds graduate. Else they wouldn’t be phds.
The difference is that there’s this entire bizarrely complicated legal regime regarding tenure. You have this crazy system where tenure is a “property interest” under the Constitution, meaning a state university can’t fire someone without giving full Constitutional due process. In industry you might have effective tenure just because you’ve been there forever, but it’s certainly not considered a violation of a Constitutional right if they do kick you to the curb.
Anyway all this discussion of tenure is somewhat academic (hah!) as universities move more and more to rely on untenured instructors for undergrad education.
The small “d” in “Phd” indicates all but dissertation 😉
For all you economists and geeks (I repeat myself) that have never played football, most players will have at least one hit per game that is simply head-spinning. They all know this, and to act like it is a surprise or someone is hiding the data when they have experienced the pounding first hand is ridiculous.
The intentional bounty hunting is out of bounds, but aside from that, meet the thrusting thigh of 260 lb. muscled athlete with your state of the art helmet and trust me, you will see the birdies, and it happens with regularity because, well, it’s football, not chess.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if taking out someone’s knee saved them from neurodegeneration later in life.
I’m sure the legal system will tease out all these subtle questions….haha
Don’t boxers get their nasal septa removed?
(1) In Italy, because it’s against so many laws — and those who try to change the laws get assassinated: http://www.economist.com/node/21551046
To reiterate what I said upstream, the evidence about brain trauma is making me reassess watching football. There are many fine things one can do on a autumn afternoon, and supporting harm to people as a form of entertainment is against my values.
I have believed that football is skill sport that uses blocking, tackling, etc with a risk of injury. The current evidence is making me think that it is a bloodsport with serious consequences to substantial portion of the participants. My seat on the couch may soon be vacant.
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