The League

THE QUESTION

Can the NFL Exist Without Concussions?

Does the NFL have an obligation to better protect its players, even if doing so shrank the sports popularity?

Posted by Emil Steiner on October 28, 2009 6:00 AM
FEATURED COMMENTS

AgentG: Just one more thing to consider,... think if we still sold Ford Pinto's in 2009 and claimed there was nothing we could do to improve their s...

OneGovt_Worker: My experience: Blindside helmet to helmet hit on a kickoff return when I was 17 in High School: 1. Frontal lobe brain damage on the initia...

surlydoc: what causes so many concussions? it's the helmet, stupid! 1. there should be a strip of padding on the OUTSIDE of the helmet from the fron...

Make a Comment  |  All Comments (23)

ALL COMMENTS (23)
mtbunker Author Profile Page :

I was an All State Defensive Back, played ball at a PAC-10 University - I know all about football. It may sound crazy but the quickest way to end this plague of SERIOUS life threatening brain injuries it to get rid of the pads. ala RUGBY. Without pads you DO NOT fly in like a crazy man to tackle someone head first (which not many guys are). Impacts will be much less severe simply by taking the pads away....It will still be a GREAT game - just less deadly which is the way it should be.

MyMaster Author Profile Page :

There is not one way to provide full contact professional football entertainment without concussions. As a nation, we demand violence and any attempt for a kinder, gentler NFL will be met with less revenue. That is exactly why the NFL will not do anything to protect its players beyond sending the retired infirm players a shoddy flower arrangement in the hospice.
Good hits = Happy viewers = $

pvbklyn Author Profile Page :

Read the Malcolm Gladwell article in the New Yorker, Oct 19, 2009. Too many concussions, too much brain damage, dementia and early death. Football is likened to dog fighting. These players will go out and do anything to please their bosses in the same way that dogs will please their masters. I'm a big J-E-T-S fan but after reading this it just made me depressed and for the moment not want to watch another football game. And it seems that there's nothing that can be done to prevent concussions.

Fredneck2 Author Profile Page :

Football is like coal mining. Nobody ever said it was a safe job.
You want to cut down on head and knee injuries, take off the facemasks. These guys will quit sticking their noses in there after they end up with a few missing teeth and broken noses and cheekbones and orbitals.

jamesprather Author Profile Page :

if you would tell the players that its going to cost them $100000.00 each time they are called for it they would stop it 2nd would be $200000.00 and the 3rd time they would never play in yhe NFL again. i bet this would stop it and stop it today. i dont care if the union agreed with it or not thats the way it would be!!

jamesprather Author Profile Page :

if you would tell the players that its going to cost them $100000.00 each time they are called for it they would stop it 2nd would be $200000.00 and the 3rd time they would never play in yhe NFL again. i bet this would stop it and stop it today. i dont care if the union agreed with it or not thats the way it would be!!

borntoraisehogs Author Profile Page :

Worshipping Pro sports thuggery has contributed to the decline and near collapse of the black family in America . I hope they all beat their brains out .

helloisanyoneoutthere Author Profile Page :

The people who are playing professional football have been playing for many years and certainly know the risks of any full contact game.

It really won't matter how many rolls of Charmin toilet paper you can rap around an individual in order to keep the from getting hurt. Someone is still going to get hurt.

And they are paid handsomely to play this physical game, aren't they?

harry_consumer Author Profile Page :

There's No Business Like Show Business...
Like no business I know.

Professional Football and particularly
Basketball has long ago ceased to be a
SPORT. It is ENTERTAINMENT.

The goal it to make money.
More money is made if you keep the games close.

So...

o The Rules are Vague... who can tell in basketball when a foul occures... try and define what one is. and one.

o The ENFORCEMENT is Inconsistent. Its a toss of the dice from one minute to the next as to what is going to be called..

o The PENALTIES are not Sufficient to Deter the crime. When you foul someone and then You get the ball back... NOT the team that was the victim of the foul...it serves to keep the game close, more interesting, more people staying at their TV sets and the beer ads flowing.

Oh at least announcer now don't say
"That was a good faul." or That was a good bank robbery.
Incidently, it the rules, the penalties and the enforcement Did NOT use to be the way they are today.

And it has now spread to FOOTBALL...
Pass Interferance... anarchy.

And that good folks is what SPORTS is teaching our Children. And we wonder why they no longer respect rules and the law.
And we wonder whether our leaders in government and business have fallen into this Lawless society.

Call you College President... Your High School Principal... but not the NCAA or TV stations, or commercial sponsors.

PatD1 Author Profile Page :

If the spectacle of millions of teenage/young adult/adult men negatively impacting their mental health and well being of makes one uncomfortable or even squeamish, then quit watching it.

Personally, no way I want the bad karma all those zombie ex-jocks radiate getting on me.

JWMeritt Author Profile Page :

Why bother? It costs money and it isn't like the players are using their brain anyway, or that there are not a lot of equally-foolish jocks that would be glad to take the place of any fatality. If someone is concerned about their brain's well-being, why are they doing THAT?!?!?!?

kiler616 Author Profile Page :

we have a lot of problems in the world...real heavy stuff in some ares including here...and we are debating whether concussions can lead to..dementia or problems thereafter??....this is a satirical piece,is it not??....and if it isn't,you are paid millions to put on a helmet and attack each other...there can be injuries...look at it this way,we have two military excursions on right now, where people are getting paid peanuts to dig up buried bombs...and when those go off they usually have no heads left to get dementia...for you guys...it's football..or go dig up bombs for peanuts...you choose

JPRS Author Profile Page :

The main issue at this stage is learning how to manage concussions.

The worst damage seems to happen when a player gets back on the field without having sufficiently recovered from the initial concussion (e.g. in the case of a severe concussion it might take days or weeks to fully recover). The preliminary research seems to suggest that the additional concussions that take place during this recovery period are amplified.

What MTBUNKER says makes sense regarding the equipment -- although concussions are also a major issue in Professional Wrestling where there is no use of head-gear (granted some of those concussions are induced by slamming metal folding chairs into a person's head).

Part of the problem here is that a lot of the research at this stage is preliminary. The NFL and other orgs like professional wrestling should be spending more money to figure out what the best treatment methods are. Federal funding might make sense too, because the issue of managing concussions isn't limited just to pro contact sports (e.g. head trauma from things like IED explosions in combat is starting to come onto the radar; I'm sure these also come into play in motor vehicle accidents which can impact anyone). The research could have pretty wide spread application, so it's important to understand the issue better.

The more that brain injuries like concussions are understood, the better we can apply the right kind of remedy.

biffgrifftheoneandonly Author Profile Page :

I agree with the All State D-Back dude. Re-design th equipment. Helmets and pads are used intentionally as weapons to hurt the other players in the name of "victory". Are we so morally bankrupt as a nation we will willingly sacrifice young men in the prime of their lives for entertainment? Well, why not. We're already doing it in the middle east to sell more coca-cola.

biffgrifftheoneandonly Author Profile Page :

I agree with the All State D-Back dude. Re-design th equipment. Helmets and pads are used intentionally as weapons to hurt the other players in the name of "victory". Are we so morally bankrupt as a nation we will willingly sacrifice young men in the prime of their lives for entertainment? Well, why not. We're already doing it in the middle east to sell more coca-cola.

biffgrifftheoneandonly Author Profile Page :

I agree with the All State D-Back dude. Re-design th equipment. Helmets and pads are used intentionally as weapons to hurt the other players in the name of "victory". Are we so morally bankrupt as a nation we will willingly sacrifice young men in the prime of their lives for entertainment? Well, why not. We're already doing it in the middle east to sell more coca-cola.

shark89 Author Profile Page :

Protective Sports Equipment has designed a new helmet using a patented innovation that lab tests show outperforms traditional hard outer shell helmets. NFL tests are underway to compare the leading helmets to put objective measurements on helmet technology. PSE expects to become a leader in taking helmets to the next level rather than modest incremental improvements seen over the years in traditional hard outer shell products. Football is the 1st step as PSE will bring the technology to bear in other markets marking a true step change in helmet protection.

agrossman1 Author Profile Page :

If the NFL and American football were to disappear from the face of the earth right now I certainly would have no objection. It is a viciaous game played by neanderthals who do not have the brains to understand they are being taken advantage of for financial gain. Certainly not theirs. Most of them have little left financially when they are used up and thrown away. These are talentless, marginal men. I get sick to my stomach whenever I hear some equally brazen psychophant call some player brilliant just because he caught a funny looking ball and ran away from a bunch of waterbuffalo bent on crushing him.

Outlaw the damn game!

Meepo Author Profile Page :

No helmets at all. Light pads. Height-weight restrictions. One-and-two-arm tackles legal, any and all "hits" (spears, head-to-head, shoulder-to-body hits) illegal. Concessions sale price limits. Free parking. Regional TV access.

And the NFL will have none of this, because it would mean that these great contests among men, Mentertainment, would be reduced to a high-school game played by a bunch of 25-25-year-olds.

AgentG Author Profile Page :

I have extensively studied football helmet safety and the issue of brain injuries and concussions in the sport of football. The facts are that it is well known and well documented (over 30 years of science!) in the medical literature that brain leisons result from impact to the head, and that these cause concussions and long-term brain injury. The cranium is a biological helmet, in which the brain is surrounded by a protective fluid, providing an impressive amount of shielding from various types of impact to the head.

Furthermore, there are many technologies and plenty of know-how available for substantially improving the design and protection afforded by sport helmets. So to all those who say that the 100,000 concussions in the USA, and the dozen or so deaths, every year are unavoidable: hogwash to your willful ignorance!! What you are saying is that you are willing to accept this collatoral damage because you love the sport more than player safety.

In fact, the sad situation we have today with helmet safety is an ECONOMIC issue, not a scientific, technical, or medical one. What we have is mass denial, on the part of players, coaches, and sports doctors, many of whom are simply ignorant about the science of brain injury, which again, has been evident for many decades.
I respectfully submit that all of you who love the sport more than the safety of the players must understand that you are complicit in the reduced mental capacity of millions of Americans over the last decades!!!

The primary economic issue is that the football community is unwilling to recognize the true collective costs to players from a *massive* amount of head injury that takes place. This cost is human capital, which we do not value very highly in our American economy. This results in extreme cost pressure for sports gear, which prevents sufficient capital from being invested in R&D and new product development. What we have today is a helmet shell (based on the same motorcycle helmet Peter Fonda wore in Easy Rider) with a face guard slapped on, and some improvements in the shell padding.

We also have a weak regulation of sports equipment safety, with industry funded certification and testing, normalized to the least stringent tests which all producers can easily pass.

Wake up!! The American entrepreneural machine is capable of designing top-class helmets that can reduce brain injury risk 99%. The old paradigm of helmet design must be thrown out the window -- neither weight nor stiffness really matters, but rather the biomechanical performance with respect to impact absorbtion. Developing a new generation of helmets takes CAPITAL and an appetite for RISK -- we must believe in ourselves that we can accomplish this. The REWARD would be phenomenal, but we are stuck in a pit of ignorance and cowardice. Unfortunately, we would rather invest in real-estate and talk down others with ideas to mask our own inability and inaction. The sad state of our nation is reflected here in microcosm.

If you truly love football, then you cannot remain ignorant or silent on the issue of protective equipment. You should feel morally bound to lobby for improved safety and work together to find a business model that can provide financing for the needed improvements in helmet design. And you might accept the fact that a football helment needs to cost $200 instead of $30, because a player's brain is worth that amount of value. For more details email me at goel (dot) tx (at) gmail (dot) com -- all respectful inquiries will be answered.

AgentG Author Profile Page :

Just one more thing to consider,... think if we still sold Ford Pinto's in 2009 and claimed there was nothing we could do to improve their safety. Would we accept that as a society? No way!

Yet that is exactly what we are accepting for football helmets, a market that affects millions of American youth. We still use and refurbish a helmet design that has basically not changed in over 40 years, and has had minimal investments in improvements over the years. Who is ultimately responsible?-- if not the NFL, then who?

OneGovt_Worker Author Profile Page :

My experience:

Blindside helmet to helmet hit on a kickoff return when I was 17 in High School:

1. Frontal lobe brain damage on the initial hit.
2. A loose helmet contributed to occipital lobe brain damage on the resulting "limp" fall to the turf
3. Retrograde Amnesia
4. Blurry vision that glasses don't fix
5. Temporary hearing losses
6. Migraines everyday until I was 24
7. Addiction to painkillers due to the migraines
8. I had to relearn (see: make up) who I was
9. I couldn't 'learn' or retain any new or old information for about 2 months

Sometimes it doesn't pay to be the fastest kid on the field lol.

All internal, so you'd never know it, but all of that happened in 1 second, 11 years ago (Next month would be the 11th Anniversary), and I STILL can't remember my childhood or more than 5 solid moments of my teenage years. My vision is still crap, and my hearing is sketchy as heck.

I can laugh about it now, because it's hard to miss what you can't remember, but the drug addiction was horrible..When I ran out of Vicodin, I'd shake, get angry/irritable, punch things, yell for no reason..craziness

So yea...something must be done..all of my injuries happened in one hit, but these Pros take hundreds of those in a career.

I vote for better equipment and bigger fines and on field penalties for helmet/spear type tackles..but let's not change the game totally....

surlydoc Author Profile Page :

what causes so many concussions?

it's the helmet, stupid!

1. there should be a strip of padding on the OUTSIDE of the helmet from the front center of the helmet toward the top and back along the crown of the helmet. this will reduce the danger of concussions resulting from the shock of the hard surface impacts of helmet to helmet hits.

2. reduce the size of the facemask.
except for down linemen all facemasks shud be single or double bar. this would eliminate most defensive players "spearing" with the head. this is the type of facemask used in the fifties and early sixties. it still give protection, but doesn't allow a player to be reckless.

there is one other tool.
instead of the standard yardage penalty for infractions of rules designed for safety, such as helmet to helmet hits,
penalize the offending player by restricting him to the bench for a certain number of plays or minutes on the game clock. this makes the penalty more "personal". no player wants to be off the field watching while another player plays his position.

 
 
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