More than half the public thinks the problem of concussions in the National Football League needs to be dealt with, according to a new Washington Post poll. Fewer, about a third, say head injuries are just part of the game. But fans aren’t about to stop watching because of it. Nearly nine in 10 football fans say reports about head injuries will not make much difference in their plans to watch games this fall.
The broad demand for action on head injuries — just as attorneys for more than 2,000 retired players plan to combine lawsuits against the NFL — stands in stark contrast to public opinion almost two decades ago. Barely one in three football fans in a 1993 CBS News poll said action was necessary to deal with football injuries in general. The survey was conducted after a series of injuries was blamed on astro turf fields.
The concern is not limited to bystanders. A 57 percent majority of football fans — including 56 percent of self-described “big fans” — think something needs to be done about head injuries.
More than six in 10 women and those ages 65 and older say action is necessary to deal with head injuries, but men and those under age 30 are split on the issue.
Despite widespread concern, few football fans are bothered by head injuries enough to abandon the sport. Nearly nine in 10 pro football fans say reports on head injuries will make little difference in their viewership in the upcoming season, including those who say something needs to be done about it.
In addition, few cite hard hits as a reason for losing touch with the sport. A scant 2 percent of former football fans or fans who say their interest in the sport has decreased mention concussions or violence in the sport as a reason for drifting from the NFL. More people complain about the role of money in the sport, citing rich players and greed. More still cite lifestyle reasons, such as being too busy and not having time to watch TV.
Moreover, football fans say physical contact is not the most interesting part of the game. By more than a 3 to 1 margin, more fans say they enjoy scoring plays than hard hits.
While most people favor taking action on head injuries, recent lawsuits on the issue have yet to draw wide public attention. Nearly three quarters of Americans say they did not closely follow recent stories about the NFL lawsuits, and over half say they haven’t followed them at all.