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As Tackle Strategies Change in the NFL, Players at Higher Risk for Career-Ending Injuries

On October 20, in the Redskins’ 45-41 win over the Chicago Bears, wide receiver Brandon Meriweather was flagged twice for personal fouls. He was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit on receiver Alshon Jeffery at the end of a 28-yard catch late in the third quarter; then in the fourth quarter, Meriweather launched into receiver Brandon Marshall after he dropped a pass in the end zone. (USA Today Sports, Redskins S Brandon Meriweather’s suspension reduced to one game, October 23, 2013)

The following Monday, Meriweather was suspended by the NFL for two games after his playing was marked by personal fouls. These fouls cost him $141,176 — in addition to his suspension and cost the Redskins their starter this past Sunday against the Denver Broncos.

According to USA Today, Meriweather, after missing Sunday’s game against the Broncos went public with his plans for changing his playing style saying this:

“I guess I’ve just got to take people’s knees out. I’d hate to end a guy’s career over a rule, but I guess it’s better (for something to happen to) other people than me getting suspended for longer,” he told reporters in the Redskins locker room. “You’ve just got to go low now. You’ve got to end people’s career. You’ve got to tear people’s ACLs and mess up people’s knees now. You can’t hit ’em high anymore.” (USA Today, Brandon Meriweather plans to tackle future opponents low, hits Brandon Marshall even lower, October 28, 2013)

“Meriweather’s comment is chilling and should not be taken lightly. Every player should stop and think what ‘end people’s careers’ would look like if they are on the receiving end of a devastating tackle,” says Frank N. Darras, the nation’s disability lawyer to the pros.

“As the game of football changes, the new helmet rules affecting how players are hit could explain why there are staggering numbers of ACL injuries this season. Throw in Meriweather’s comment and that alone, should give all players a good reason to think about what their lives would be like if their incomes, financial security, endorsements and notoriety end in a snap and they never play again. It does happen and players should be prepared now, and the warning signs are in the data, in the history books and on the injured reserve lists,” says Darras.

The most dangerous part of participating in any sport is a career-ending injury. Regardless of the sport, professional or college players have a limited time to make career money in the big leagues. One error, one rough tackle, one blow to the head, one hard low hit is all it takes to permanently end a career and a dream.

As the NFL season continues I want players to know that an individual “own occupation” disability insurance policy will make the difference between a secure future and financial devastation. Get smart. If you think you are immune, read Michael Schottey’s article, How NFL Players Fall Apart on October 23, 2013; as he might have summed up playing in the NFL best:

“In the end, this is just the Second Law of Thermodynamics, entropy playing out in front of us…It’s the idea that over time, everything goes from order to chaos. It decays…

It’s a morbid thought, but it’s also the reality football players must deal with. They know that their livelihood and financial security could be jeopardized at any moment. It is why it’s foolish to begrudge a player for trying to eke out just a little more money in free agency, or a veteran who wants to sit out training camp to avoid the excess hits.”

Schottey has a point, “eventually, every NFL, player-no matter how good, is going to fall apart.” Read more.

“As the most experienced disability lawyer in the country, I can say, without a doubt: It does not have to be that way. Players will get injured, yet lives and livelihoods don’t have to fall apart, you can protect your futures,” says Darras.

Don’t wait. Don’t think ‘it won’t happen to me’. Disability insurance is the financial lifeline for athletes regardless of the sport and it provides income protection should any athlete sustain an injury that destroys their ability to earn an income.

“Disability policies can be written to cover the profession you compete in. Now is the time to sit down with the best and most trusted insurance expert or agent and get solid guidance and secure your future income, regardless of what happens on the field,” says Darras.

*Update on Meriweather and his comment by DeMaurice Smith, NFLPA Executive Director

DeMaurice Smith Statement on Brandon Meriweather
{ NFLPA Executive Director spoke with Washington Redskins safety. }
Author: NFLPA Communications Posted: 10/30/2013

“I spoke to Brandon. He is passionate about the game, and I know he is sorry for what he said. He is concentrating on helping his team win the rest of the season. Brandon knows that all players have a responsibility to each other and to play within the rules of the game.”

DarrasLaw is Americas' most honored and decorated disability litigation firm in the country. Mr. Darras has seen more, evaluated more, litigated more, and resolved more individual and group long term disability and long-term care cases than any other lawyer in the United States.

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