Congress Holds Hearing on Football Injuries

The House Judiciary Committee meet in Houston to hear testimony on something that's on everybody's mind this week — the sport of football. With host Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, the committee wants to know if changes need to be made to prevent injuries to the brain. Bill Stamps has more.
Most avid football fans are aware of the changes that have taken place over the years. Changes designed to make the players safer. The design of helmets have changed and the rules no long allow you to tackle with your head first. But is that enough?

Some members of Congress don’t think so. This is Representative Sheila Jackson Lee speaking about the NFL.

"We believe that it is imperative that their thinking is changed, the concepts are changed, how they recruit as it relates to what they provide in terms of instructions to those recruits that are coming in. We believe pee wee football should change in a positive way, our high school football and yes, our college football."

The NFL has an anti trust exemption that congress can take away at anytime, which means the league must listen what they say. Three congressional members including Jackson Lee heard from fifteen different speakers that included players, trainers, coaches and physicians. Here’s congressman Steven Cohen of Tennessee questioning Houston Texans lineman Chester Pitts about helmets.

"Does each player have the right to choose his helmet?"
 
Answer: "Absolutely, when it comes to equipment, what you wear and your safety on the field, they never give you a hard time about what pad feels good. They don’t even present anything to you that’s not the best of the best of what’s available."

Cohen believes the government may have to regulate what type of helmets players can wear.

"Sports equipment, sports helmets shouldn’t be treated necessarily as sporting goods. It should be something that’s regulated possibly by the Food and Drug Administration or consumer protections agencies, so that we see to it that the best helmets and the best protection are given these men that play the game with such devotion and we’ll watch the Super Bowl with such devotion."


Doctor Bennet Omalu says the brain of some former NFL players isn’t much different than boxers. The damage comes from multiple concussions or sub concussions as he calls it.

"All you need to do is talk to retired football players the first thing you notice is there’s something wrong with a good number of them in terms of cognitive functioning and intellectual functioning."


But there are some who would disagree with that and would say the average former NFL players thinks and acts just as normal as anyone else.

University of Houston head football coach Kevin Sumlin testified that’s he’s happy with the sport and the attention paid to safety.

Still the committee will continue to hold more hearings before decide what if any action it will take.