NFL Lockout partly due to player's injury fearsFriday March 11 was a sad day for NFL fans. The deadline passed for federal mediation between the players' association and the NFL and the Players' Union was decertified. The future of the 2011 NFL season is in serious question, as a class action suit was made against the owners. The owners initiated a lockout of players from their clubs. As a lifelong football fan, it's hard not to pick a side. When you're dealing with owners and players making millions, doing so is tough, but looking at the points of contention, this Houston Texans and New York Jets fan must side with the players.

Yes, the owners have significant financial risk, however with television contracts, merchandising, concessions, and other outside-the-game income, that risk is greatly diminished. When we think of players, think past the Peyton Manning superstars with the endorsement deals. Think more about the average NFL player without endorsements who's average career in the NFL is under four years. The lockout has eliminated the health insurance for these players. Players, however, must play for three seasons to ensure their healthcare continues for five years after retirement. Many players are uninsurable after those five years end.

Football players take a beating. It is the very defiinition of a contact sport. Fans have to notice that as the season progresses, and especially in the postseason, it seems like another player falls injured every drive downfield. These injuries are cumulative and progressive. Lower extremity injuries include turf toe, ankle sprains, foot and ankle fractures, and torn-up knees. Add to that spinal compression fractures, separated shoulders, concussions, and more, every play an NFL player is involved in is a game of Russian roulette. That's their job, but it's on the league and team owners to minimize injury.

One of the main focuses of the owners is to lengthen the regular season to 18 games (from 16) and reduce the preseason to two games (from four). On the surface this seems equitable, however when you realize that most starters do not play significan amounts of the preseason games, and the level of play and injury potential is less than that of the regular season, you add significant wear and tear and injury potential. While the league agreed to keep the current 16/4 model for the next two years, their interest is to still increase the regular season in the future.

The 2011 NFL season possibility looks grim. Here's to hoping that the two sides can come together and forge an agreement. First, the owner's and league need to realize that they're losing their two most preciousl commodities: their players and their fans.
Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.
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