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Paralyzed former NJ college player presses toward goals

A New Jersey native and former Rutgers player took part in the coin toss from his wheelchair during a recent NFL game. While the young man had plans to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following his college career, a 2010 spinal cord injury suffered on the field ended that prospect.

The man has not allowed his permanent disability to prevent him from taking part in the world of professional football. Despite his paralysis, he now works on the radio, helping with a pre-game show and a halftime show for Rutgers football games. He hopes one day to work full time in the broadcasting industry. In addition to his regular schedule, the man has written a book about his experience.

Unfortunately, this type of catastrophic injury is not uncommon among football players. Of the 12,000 spinal cord injuries each year, over 7 percent of them involve sports. Football remains the most popular sport in the United States today, and the short-term risks the game presents are well-known.

Recent studies have concluded that football players are more likely to suffer from other types of ailments long after retirement, including Alzheimer's disease and Lou Gehrig's disease. Possibly because the organization is concerned by studies like these, the NFL has given $30 million to the National Institute of Health in order to fund further research on spinal cord and other injuries.

Customarily, when people choose to play a dangerous or a full contact sport, they assume the risk of injury, including very serious injuries. Some injured players have received workers' compensation in some states, but there has been no highly publicized case of a player suing the NFL or the NCAA for not taking reasonable care to ensure their safety on the football field. This may change as experts and the public become increasingly aware of both the risks football poses and what organizations like the NFL or NCAA can do to prevent those risks.

Source: The Washington Post, "Paralyzed former Rutgers player Eric LeGrand takes part in coin toss for Bucs-Giants," Sept. 16, 2012

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