Fundamentals Would Make Football Better and Lessen Injuries

Bryan FlynnAnalyst INovember 12, 2009

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 03: National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell testifies on Capitol Hill on November 3, 2009 in Washington, DC. The hearing focused on doping in professional sports.(Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Since American football’s inception in the mid-19th century, injuries have been a part of the sport. Because of those early injuries, the game was nearly banned before it was given the chance to become what it is today.

Football has always been a violent sport, where injury can happen at any place or time on the field.

Recently, Congress met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss head injuries specifically.

Concussions have been making news a lot this season. Players like Tim Tebow, Jahvid Best, Brian Westbrook, and more have suffered varying amounts of head injuries.

While there will always be injuries in football, there is a way that no legislation by Congress, technology, or rule changes can do to help avoid some injuries. That way is bringing back fundamentals to the game of football.

Teach form tackling and rid players of the Lawrence Taylor effect

Can anyone remember a game they have watched this season or in the past few seasons where the defense made good form tackles the whole game? More than likely you will see a defender leave his feet and duck his head making a tackle.

To make a proper tackle must be something that is not being taught in pee wee, Pop Warner, high schools, and even colleges.

What is proper tackling form, you might ask?

Even before you make physical contact with the ball carrier, you need to first break down to make a tackle. That means slowing down under control with your feet underneath you. Next, you bow your chest and drop your butt.

Once you make contact with the ball carrier, you keep your head up and put your face mask on the ball, wrap the runner up with your arms, and drive through with your hips to take the ball carrier to the ground.

(Above is an example of a good form tackle)

Two cardinal sins in tackling are leaving your feet, i.e. leaping into the ball carrier. The second and most important is ducking your head while making a tackle.

(Above is an example of a bad attempt to tackle)

Most injuries to defenders and to offensive players happen when a player ducks his head. The poor form tackling is most evident by the number of times players are flagged for leading with their head on a tackle. 

The cause of poor form tackling has to go back to the play of Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants in the 1980s and early 1990s. Taylor made it popular to try to strip the ball from an offensive player while trying to make a tackle.

Again, how many times have you watched a game and seen the defensive players trying to strip a ball carrier rather than make a tackle?

All too often it is seen in today’s football, and normally three things happen, two of which are bad.

The only good thing to happen for the defense would be to strip the ball.

The first bad outcome is that for every time a player strips the ball, they are twice as likely to allow the offensive player to keep gaining yards.

The second bad thing normally happens while defenders are holding up the ball carrier hoping to make a strip of the ball. Other players cause injuries to their teammates rushing to get in on the play.

The reason there are horse collar tackles, face masks, and numerous other defensive rule changes and penalties is due to poor tackling. Players could be cutting their careers short by moving away from proper form tackling.

As players look to lay big hits on their opponents or to make tackles in the secondary, their form gets worse. Defenders leave their feet and lead with or duck their head, which leads to not only poor tackling but injuries as well.

The poor tackling leads to injuries by offensive and defensive players. Offensive players are injured by defensive players who hit them in the head by leading with their helmet.

Leading with the head also causes injuries to the defensive players. The scariest part is the fact that how much damage is done to players by not form tackling is not even known.

Most of the poor tackling is never brought up and it should be. Proper form tackling means even more now that players are bigger, stronger, and faster than ever before.

Players carrying the ball can also avoid injures with their form as well

This mainly applies to running backs and the way they run through the line standing straight up. Running backs have started to not run behind their pads.

Running backs do not take a hand off and run low with both arms around the football and their necks up as they make their way through the defensive line. As a runner makes it through the defensive line and linebackers to the secondary, they can begin to run more straight up.

Players are instead up, and as they enter the line, they try to get low before contact. The problem with this is even if defenders were trying to form tackle, as offensive players try to get down again, hits to the head will happen.

Also, running the proper way would force defenders to tackle the right way. Running backs would be able to run over defenders if they ran the correct way and defenders used poor tackling technique.

The two correct forms are dependent on each other to help keep players from injuring each other. When both are not used, it causes more injures to take place.

While there is no way that form tackling and proper running will end every injury, it will do three things. First and foremost is that it will cut down on injuries. Secondly, it would make running backs better as runners, and lastly, defenses will be much better because they will not miss so many tackles.

Defenders also will stop allowing offensive players from gaining extra yards while trying to strip the ball away. Still, some injuries will always happen and cannot be helped.

One has to believe if the fundamentals were back in football, many injuries we see today would not happen.


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