Can the NFL Concussion Problem Be Solved?
In a previous blog, we covered the Boston University study that found chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in 87 out of 91 former NFL players, or more than 95%. Although the results weren’t exactly surprising – for many decades, scientists have suspected that NFL players face a heightened risk of long-term brain damage – the study firmly established the concussion issue as a very real issue, leaving the NFL little choice but to respond.
And respond they did. Last month, the NFL and the NFLPA announced an agreement to enforce the NFL Game Day Concussion Protocol. They vowed that going forward they would administer strict disciplinary measures against teams that violate the protocol, measures that include club fines of up to $150,000 and possible forfeiture of draft picks.
While this response is magnitudes better than the NFL’s previous attempts to cover up the issue, it may still not be enough. Some critics believe that the rules of the game AND the culture surrounding the game must undergo major shifts, or else, the game itself should be banned.
Due to the amount of money involved and the popularity of the sport, the latter option is highly unlikely. Furthermore, the discussion surrounding the NFL concussion problem has just come to the fore, which means there are probably many options that have yet to be discovered. For instance:
- Eliminate kickoffs from the game. Known as one of the most dangerous plays in football, kickoffs involve long distances, high velocities, and lots of clashing bodies, which makes it a sub-concussive factory. The NFL competition committee has endorsed the idea of banning kickoffs, so this may actually soon become a reality.
- Encourage safer tackling techniques. Illegalize helmet-to-helmet tackles and encourage safer tackling techniques like shoulder tackling or “strike zone” tackling, which emphasizes hitting the area below the neck and above the knees.
- Invest in and implement innovative anti-concussion equipment. The NFL rakes in billions of dollars in annual revenue. They should invest at least a decent percentage of those earnings into finding new ways to better protect their players – the very people who are responsible for making them that money.
There are many football fans out there who turn a blind eye to the concussion problem because they are afraid that, if the critics get their way, the game will be rendered nigh unrecognizable or, worse, gotten rid of altogether.
However, it is possible to preserve the game we all know and love, WHILE ALSO protecting the players – and why wouldn’t we want to protect the players? They are the main reason why football is such a beloved national sport. If we don’t make the necessary changes to protect the players, then we will be doing more harm to the sport of football, and perhaps even bring about its downfall.
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