NFL Concussions: Should League Make Equipment Less Safe To Protect Players?

Casey SchermickContributor IIIOctober 22, 2010

Are helmets being used as weapons?
Are helmets being used as weapons?Al Bello/Getty Images

Where have the good old days of football gone?  In today’s sports world everyone is concerned about injury.  Any advance in safety equipment is immediately brought into use by the NFL and NCAA to protect players as much as possible. 

But what about the players?  Has nobody thought about the harm they bring on themselves?  Safety could be the blame for the increase in the recent head related injuries such as concussions. 

Quintin Mikell, safety for the Philadelphia Eagles, suffered a concussion after a big hit on running back Justin Fargas of the Oakland Raiders. 

“The first thing you get is everything starts to vibrate,” said Mikell about the hit.  “On film I saw that I grabbed my helmet and tried to steady everything.  Everything is disconnected.”

Companies such as Riddell, Xenith and Schutt, are designing new helmets which are being released for use in leagues ranging from NCAA to Pop Warner.  However, the question still remains: Is safety being improved?

Helmets are designed to protect the user’s head from injury.  However, what if the helmet was not used for safety purposes? 

Helmets in the NFL are used more as weapons than as protection.  Players are leading with their heads to generate harder hits and more turnovers.  The helmets are protecting the players dishing out the hits, but are not protecting the players receiving the hits. 

There has been an average of over 100 reported concussions every season in the NFL since helmets such as the Riddell “Revolution” helmet.  However, there is only an average of five deaths per year in all levels of football around the world.  These deaths happen primarily in the high school and college levels and are not caused by head injuries.  Ironically, this is around the same number of people killed in shark attacks per year around the world.

Football helmets are designed to protect player’s skulls, however, it is very difficult to give players protection to the neck and brain during jarring hits that cause concussions. Current helmet designs do this job.  They protect the players from suffering fatal blows to the head. 

For example, the forces of some hits in the NFL are comparable to the force generated in a car crash.  The helmets protect the player’s skulls, but are unable to prevent concussions.

The truth is players will not become any more protected unless the style of the game changes.  With today’s hard-hitting, power style of play, players face the risk of serious injury.  Until the style of players changes, there will still be hundreds of concussions every year.

Terrance Newman of the Dallas Cowboys says that football would not be the same without the hard-hitting action players experience in every game.  Newman’s favorite part of the game is “blowing up receivers.”

In order to prevent the number of head injuries in the NFL per year, the NFL might want to look into making equipment “less safe."  By doing this players may not seem so invincible when dishing out bone-crushing blows every week.  With equipment leaving players vulnerable, the equipment will not be used as weapons. 

The NFL took a controversial step in the right direction this week by fining defenders for huge hits on offensive players.  While this may seem like a good idea, it is not the appropriate way to try to protect players. 

Hits such as the one Dunta Robinson dished out to DeSean Jackson are not the problem.  It is the routine hits that cause the most injuries.  Players are being taught to drive into players with their head which in turn leaves the offensive players helpless.

Looking back at football 20 years ago, the NFL did not face these problems.  Players played the game very physically, and only the toughest survived.  Maybe the game should return to this style of play in order to better protect the players.  Don’t be surprised if football begins to return to the days of Jack Youngblood, Ronnie Lott and the Iron Curtain in the near future. 

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