A similar opinion was expressed as a result of the Stanford Research Institute 1975 report on injuries in the pros, which cost the NFL $35,000. SRI's executive director, Joe Grippo, says a comparable study would cost the NCAA "around $100,000." That is about one tenth of what one team will get in next year's Cotton Bowl. But Grippo says he doesn't think the NCAA wants to put out that kind of money. "They get a lot of free labor doing things the way they've been doing them," he says.
The NFL has not updated its study, unless you count its weekly rundown of injuries. That list is not for medical study. It is intended for coaches and bettors.
Why would a multimillion-dollar-a-year business that dispenses volumes of information on every aspect of play—and can tell you not only how tall Kenny Stabler is but also how many passes he threw in the second quarter of an exhibition game—not bother to update something as important as a study of the whys and wherefores of its injuries? Because, says Jan Van Duser, NFL director of personnel, "We feel that future studies would give us the same results. Rules, playing surfaces and the number of players have not changed that much."
Right, says the SRI's Joe Grippo. "Without dynamic changes in rules or conditions," he says, "it would be a waste of their money to update every year. We told them so. We don't like to do research for the sake of research. They'd get the same results."
Thus an ironic syllogism: the study found ways to curtail injuries through change; no change was made; ergo, why make any more studies?
Grippo believes that "labor problems in the NFL" have created a reluctance to face up to the problem. "They [players and management] have been at each other's throats for three years. They're afraid to tamper with the underpinnings of the game. You need player harmony to make sweeping changes."
The NFL player strike of 1975 accomplished two things other than the inflation of a left guard's value on the open market: it raised the level of distrust and militance between owners and players, and it made players more aware of the dollar value of their broken bones. As attorneys and agents ran amok in a suddenly widening no-man's-land between management and labor, the players, in sullen retribution for past slights, resorted to harsh business ethics that owners themselves had used for so many years.
When a business ethic takes over a sport, sport adapts. It is not the other way around. In business, you take your grievances to court, not to the locker room. Increasingly, injuries have become a cause for litigation. Nick Roman sued the Kansas City Chiefs for back pay and damages because he was "released when hurt, violating the contract." The Oakland Raiders' Terry Mendenhall was awarded $91,500 in 1975 because the Raiders' team-physician allegedly concealed a knee injury before Mendenhall was traded. Raymond Hickl of the Oilers, who had a history of head injuries, was hospitalized after being hit on his helmet by a player's knee. He decided to quit football. The Oilers decided not to pay him. Hickl took his case to the newly formed player-owner arbitration committee, which awarded him $4,000—after finding that the Oilers had made "little or no attempt to determine if Hickl had any previous injuries."
Last year Miami Dolphin Defensive End Bill Stanfill took owner Joe Robbie to arbitration. A four-year All-Pro, Stanfill was suffering from a chronic and serious back injury. He consulted three or four doctors, all of whom confirmed that he should not play. Stanfill told a Miami newspaperman that the Dolphins' offer to settle the remaining three years on his contract was such that he felt obliged to go to court. The arbitrator ruled in his favor, holding that the contract should be honored, that Stanfill would perform football-related activities, but not play football. Robbie had planned to appeal the decision, but the case was settled for an undisclosed sum before the appeal was heard.
There are no brass bands or waving pennants in courtrooms and emergency wards. With a gangland mentality allowed on the field, and with a sport whose leadership is more responsive to Nielsen ratings than injury reports, it is small wonder that the wolves (mostly lawyers) are at football's door. "Litigation is waking people up," says Clarke. "Litigation will be the cause of change." When owners are convinced that injuries are costing them money, an NFL referee told Jack Nix, a former player and official who is now in the insurance business, they will push for reform.