Deep Impact

What happens when NFL players collide?

"Football is a relatively safe sport," says Dr. Stephen Nicholas, team orthopedist for the Jets. "They're better padded than most athletes in any sport. They're protected very well."

Altogether, football injuries are on a steady decline. The latest comprehensive study conducted by Dr. James Nicholas, chairman of the medical staff for the Jets, shows that since 1960, "[the Jets] suffered fewer injuries with the passing of time, primarily in injuries that caused a player to miss at least eight consecutive games."

But in a sport where the average playing life span is anywhere from three to eight years and a player who retires in his thirties can have the body of a 50-year-old, some long-term effects of being a pro player are significant. "The worst effect is numerous concussions," says Dr. Ermann. "Some players end up with post-concussional syndrome, which means anything from slight memory losses to real severe cognitive problems."

However, according to Dr. Stephen Nicholas, "most stop playing not due to injury. It's usually up to their talent."

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