I’m talking American Football. The game where almost 50 men complete against one another 11 at a time with plenty of breaks in the action to catch their breath. They are strong, large men, many of them obese and wear enormous pads and helmets to protect them not from the other men, but from the other men’s pads and helmets. Why do I care? Well, I always have, but watching a college game yesterday made me want to comment on it.
Chris Owusu, a wide receiver for the Stanford college team was removed from the field Saturday after being struck in the helmet by…another helmet. This was his fourth concussion and reports have him being taken off the field unconscious.
This phenomenon is nothing new in the world of American Football and has been studied for decades. A simple google search returns studies that talk about ensuring the players hit each other less, or not head to head. Good luck.
The entire motivating factor in American Football is to hit the other guy hard, yet there is no stat for hits. So if the culture of the sport is encouraging dangerous play, shouldn’t we protect the players? Surely stronger pads and helmets will protect them right? Sadly no, it just adds a harder hit from the other guy. It’s a lot like arguing that car accidents will be safer if we all had bigger heavier cars. Foolish, yet that is what the NFL, NCAA and youth programs are doing. They add more pads and stronger helmets, all the while seeing more injuries and more serious injuries to boot.
I’m not a huge fan of American Football and have a number of ways to make it more interesting to watch, but none of them is “HIT HIM HARDER!”
My first order of business is to remove the helmets in use now and replace them with nothing. Yes, nothing. It’ll take a little while for the game to adapt but far less people will be getting concussions if they have to go skull to skull against the other guy. It might actually require them to learn how to tackle, not just hit. Look at rugby and Australian Rules Football, both requiring more strategy, fitness and contact to tackle a person as opposed to simply hitting him so hard he passes out. Imagine an NFL lineman who can run farther than 40 yards…all.game.long.
But American Football fans don’t want to watch men who can play an entire game. They live for the hard hit across the middle, knocking the player who caught the ball on his face in some form of ancient battle.
Removing the helmets, the radio transmitters and making the players actually play the whole game with limited substitutions (imagine that!) will greatly increase the pace of the game as well as the entertainment factor for those of us interested in a competition, not a battle. Not to mention, less career ending injuries.
Lose the helmets NFL, what do you think you are? Hockey? As far as I can see the only hazard on the field is the other team and the only reason is because they’re heavily fortified as well.