NOTE: The following was first published on February 5, 2013:
Junior Seau's suicide was the latest indictment of football as a sport that's killing its participants due to concussions. Seau's autopsy showed no brain damage, though a later examination apparently established the presence of CTE - aka brain degeneration. The study of concussions has produced more assumption than hard fact, shown in criticism of Deion Sanders when he defended the safety of the game following Super Bowl XLVII. Sanders' point is shown in more frequent head injuries in soccer and football-related brain injury deaths, averaging 20 per year in the 1960s, is in effect gone from the game, and even this may be overselling the danger.
The fact is Sanders is right - football is a safe game.
FOLLOW-UP, June 3, 2014: The initial lawsuit against the NFL was settled before the 2013 season with a $765 million payout to former players; the lawyers initially wanted $2 billion, but settled for less than half as their case wasn't credible enough to win all of it. The $765 million could likely have been negotiated without any lawsuit threat. Now a follow-up lawsuit has supposedly been filed; Dan Marino was reported (on June 2) to be involved but this was followed by a report that he withdrew the next day. Amid this, PBS aired a "documentary" based on the book League Of Denial - but the evidence about concussions and danger to players isn't as solid as the media portrays it. There is also what the November 2012 International Conference On Concussion In Sport stated.
FOLLOW-UP, March 18, 2015: The sudden retirement of 49ers player Chris Borland after one season has stirred up more debate about football risk, as Borland cited concern over head injuries (this despite having no recognizable head injuries from his brief career) and in effect smeared the safety of the game on Outside The Lines, which led to a Steelers team doctor defending the game's safety, a defense nicely examined by Mike Florio and also this Jerry Thornton piece about coaching youth football.