Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hey Roger Goodell, want to really get serious about player safety?

Roger Goodell and the NFL have supposedly started to "crack" down on player safety.  This includes larger fines for hitting defenseless players, especially quarterbacks, especially in the head, and cracking down on bounty programs.  Why is a player penalized and fined for hitting a quarterback in the head?  Because of the potential injury the quarterback may suffer.  So, why isn't the NFL doing more to protect all players from injury head/neck injuries?

I blogged a few weeks back about what seems to be an increase in head and neck injuries this year in the NFL and college football.  I watch many games, and the biggest thing I have seen that puts these players at risk for injury is 1) lowering their head (flexing the neck) when making a tackle (see picture above), and 2) a defender projecting himself head first into an offensive player (it just happened in the Rams/Cardinals game. Very scary but fortunately the players was able to walk off the field).  The second holds the greater risk for a potential head and/or neck injury.  Once the defender leaves the ground, they cannot change their motion until they a) hit the ground or b) hit another player.  Too many times a player dives headfirst to make a tackle and the top of his head makes contact with an opposing player or a teammate.  So, if this type of tackle can lead to the worst possible type of injury, why are players still allowed to do it?  I realize it is something they have probably been doing since they first started playing football, but they risk/reward just isn't worth it.  Is it worth making a tackle this way when the possible consequence could be a concussion or neck injury?  Isn't the NFL concerned about the quality of life for it's players after football?  I am not saying that this would eliminate all head or neck injuries in football, but it would sure cut down on a lot of them.  If you watch any videos of recent injuries like these, in almost all of them the player either puts his head down or projects himself headfirst into a defender or teammate.  I am in no way saying that these players deserve to be injured.  It just seems that more should be done to eliminate this potentially hazardous technique.  We don't teach pitchers to throw at other players heads because of the risk of injury. Youth baseball players are not allowed to slide headfirst because of the injury risk. Why are we letting football players put themselves in danger when the outcome could be disastrous?

I still do not have a simple solution for this.  I think it has to start with the youth leagues and work its way up.  But, if NFL players were penalized and fined for diving headfirst into another player, I imagine some of them would stop doing it, and if even just one head/neck injury is prevented, the it is worth it. 

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