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Big Hits, No Penalty, Lots of Brain Damage

According to an article in The New York Times, the National Football League (NFL) is not sticking to their new policy of protecting players from concussion and head injury.

One player was tackled square in the face with the helmet of an onrushing opponent. Another, fighting for one last yard, took a polyurethane bash to the head. Still another player spent 10 minutes mostly motionless among dozens of praying players before medics carried him away on a stretcher after a helmet-to-helmet hit. [from The New York Times]

No flags were thrown for these controversial hits…all hits were deemed legal…and all of the hits probably caused traumatic brain injury to the players involved.

But the N.F.L.’s recent movement toward eliminating particularly dangerous tackles suggests that some of the collisions like those seen Sunday night could be forbidden as early as next season. Given how youth and high school football tend to follow the N.F.L.’s lead, the changes could affect more than just professionals.

Football is a violent sport, and players of all ages are encourage to “hit hard.”  Any serious move toward protecting players’ brains would require pulling back from the level of violence, and it’s not clear that anyone is willing to do that. It’s a $9 billion business, and fans live for televised clashes. Still, research has shown that multiple concussions (also known as mild traumatic brain injury, or MTBI) can lead to neurologic dysfunction, early dementia, and even death.

We’ve seen the outcome of head trauma, and we firmly believe that no game…no sport…no job should encourage—tacitly or explicitly—the kinds of activities that regularly cause concussion or more serious brain injuries. The NFL created pretty posters about concussion and vowed to take a tougher stance on head-hits. Thus far, this has all been nothing but “wah-wah-wah” background noise that everyone is ignoring.

According to Dr. Thom Mayer, medical director for the players union:

“Anything that can be done to improve the safety of our players really should be done, short of stopping playing the game.”

We agree. Hey…what if there were a fine against the team owners every time a player got a concussion during the course of a game? Hitting the big guys in their wallets wouldn’t be as painful as a head-hit, but it might at least start a serious discussion of how to stop the injuries.

Just food for thought.

To read the full article in The New York Times, click here: Big Hits, No Flags

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