Loss of possession: concussions, informed consent, and autonomy

J Law Med Ethics. Fall 2014;42(3):334-43. doi: 10.1111/jlme.12150.


The recent explosion of publicity about the dangers of concussion in contact sports - particularly in football - represents the unraveling of a disinformation campaign by the NFL amid growing public and professional concern about the game's long-term risks of harm. The persistence of controversy and denial reflects a cultural view of football players as serving the needs of the team, a resulting evidentiary skepticism, and resistance to rule changes as excessive or unenforceable. This article considers the cultural context of informed decision making by parents of youth football players and suggests that policy changes designed to lower (although they cannot eliminate) risks of brain injury have the potential to change both the culture of football and the way the benefits and harms of the game are regarded for its players, without loss of its essential excitement and appeal.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Concussion / prevention & control*
  • Football / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent*
  • Organizational Culture
  • Organizational Policy
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • United States