Junior Seau was a star linebacker in the National Football League, and he died on Wednesday of a gunshot wound. Police are investigating the death as a suspected suicide.
Should this turn out to be a suicide, it would be yet another case of a former football player dying by his own hand; there have been several deaths of professional football and hockey players by their own hands in the past two years. Ray Easterling, Dave Duerson, Wade Belak, Derek Boogaard... In case after case, depression and/or dementia has been cited, and fingers are pointing to the after-effects of concussions. With players larger and stronger than ever before, the potential for serious harm grows - and people continue to say, "This is how the game is meant to be played."
What level of risk is acceptable in sport, from the perspective of Jewish law? Rav Moshe Feinstein was asked this question regarding professional athletics, and he wrote (Igrot Moshe Choshen Mishpat 1:104) that one may engage in sport for his livelihood even with a low level of risk, even a risk of danger to "one in thousands", but he did not elaborate further.
I grew up following the NFL and NHL and enjoying both immensely - as I write this, I'm listening to the start of the 3rd overtime in the Rangers-Capitals playoff game - but one wonders whether professional-level football or hockey have reached a stage at which Rav Moshe would have prohibited participation.