Friday, October 29, 2010

Special Comment- The NFL and Concussions

It has been the topic of much discussion lately. The NFL's policy on hits to the head and neck of 'defenseless' players. The policy hasn't been changed at all though. The punishment for illegal hits in-game is absolutely identical to what it had been before. The change has been made off the field with the 'devastating' hits causing suspensions and heavier fines than before.

I don't disagree with the change in enforcement of the rules. The serious problems that concussions cause and will cause have become clear in the past decade. The NFL has been proactive in addressing the issue and this is the next step. Now, whether or not this is to protect the league image or to protect the players is a different question. I tend to think it is more of the prior.

While this may be a step to reduce the types of dangerous hits that are causing concussions, it certainly isn't going to prevent them entirely. The fact is that most DBs and WRs are roughly the same height. Most will be between about 5'10" and 6'2"*. So, head-to-head collisions will continue to occur. Also given the way that bodies can shift position so quickly, Defensive Backs who may have their hits lined up legally may end up making an illegal hit due to a Receiver bracing for impact.

Then there is the possibility of unintended consequences. If defenders are aiming lower does that mean more ankle and knee injuries for Receivers? Or could it mean more knees to the heads of defender causing concussions that way?

I don't think the NFL can legislate this problem away. I honestly believe concussions will continue to be a major issue with football given the current equipment. I don't really know what the best solution will be, but I do believe the helmet and padding needs to change.

There are lots of ideas out there. Some dumb like Joe Paterno suggesting getting rid of the face mask If you want things to get worse that's a good idea. I mean lets encourage players to lower their head and use their helmet. With no face mask that would just be reflex of players, because no body wants to break their nose on top of their concussion. There is also the idea of getting rid of padding and helmets all together like rugby. No protection for a players head means a player can't use his head as a weapon and will just naturally try to protect their own head. Therefore, the number of concussion would likely be lower. Would that actually work in American football? I don't know.

I don't really know how the padding and helmet could be changed to help alleviate this problem, but I know he current pads and helmets do virtually nothing protect players and may even exacerbate the problem. Maybe giant helmets like Dark Helmet. I just can't really say, but I know if the NFL made an effort to they could find a safer system of padding.

Thanks for reading and please comment.

*I know there are some wide receivers who are 6'6", but when they brace for a hit they shrink pretty damn fast.

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