NFL Brain Injuries: Six Ways to Keep Players Safe
Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman had a Hall-of-Fame career, but he retired early due to the lingering effects of multiple concussions.
Over the past several years, Aikman has just been one of many football players whose careers have been re-examined as more and more facts about the effects of multiple concussions come to light.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell put together a committee to examine the issue and come up with ways to prevent concussions from happening.
As everyone knows, hard-hitting is part of the game, and eliminating the potential for concussions is impossible as long as guys are tackling each other at full speed.
But there are a few things the league can do, and here are some suggestions.
Redesign the Helmet
The football helmet constantly is being looked at, and almost every year sees some kind of minor modification.
The league needs to find a helmet design that is lightweight, yet still protects the player's skull and brain from sudden, vicious hits that cause the brain to rattle around in there.
This is the best solution, and time and technology may help reduce concussions during play significantly.
Keep Enforcing the Rules
The NFL has put several rules in the place to prevent blows to the head, but that doesn't stop many players from using their helmet as a weapon.
The NFL needs to stay on top of the players in these situations. Nobody likes refs who are flag-happy, but when it comes to somebody getting their clock cleaned to make the ESPN and NFL Network highlight reels, that flag needs to come out.
Players are macho guys, and they don't like to be told a headache is going to put them on the bench for the rest of the game.
It's important to educate these guys from Pop Warner leagues and up that if they're hit in the head really good and are experiencing headaches, dizziness, etc., then they need to sit down.
Interviews with several retired NFL players has highlighted the lasting and debilitating effects from multiple concussions, and the players today need to pay attention and not make the same mistakes previous generations made.
Crack Down on Coaches Who Are Living in the Past
First, don't read anything more into the photo other than Bill Belichick was the first NFL head coach that popped into my head. Save the hatemail, you're not helping.
There are some head coaches, at all levels of the game, who will put their players in danger just to win that game.
While the culture of the NFL and head injuries has begun to change, there still are some old school holdouts who believe "getting your bell rung" is no reason to come out of the game for more than a few plays.
Any NFL coach found encouraging a player to return to a game who is experiencing concussion-type symptoms needs to be disciplined immediately.
Get Quicker, Better Diagnosis
The NFL has put an independent neurologist on each team's sideline so players suffering from a concussion can be evaluated without the influence of the team.
The NFL needs to go one step further by having the necessary medical equipment on-site. For a business that earns profits in the BILLIONS, having some sophisticated medical equipment in the stadiums shouldn't be that big of an issue.
A sideline evaluation is good, but being able to go back to the locker room and run some real tests is the direction the NFL should be heading.
Take the Lead in Research
The NFL has partnered with Boston University brain researchers to help study the effects of multiple collisions on brain injuries and ways to prevent concussions from happening.
What the NFL needs to do next is take the lead in demonstrating, developing, and perfecting new rules, equipment, and treatment.