The potential solution to serious head injuries in football is counter-intuitive

To any serious observer of professional (or school) football, it is readily obvious that the affiliation between the game and serious, long-term mind injury is probably an existential menace. Hollywood has made motion pictures in regards to the connection, many former NFL gamers are having their brains autopsied and turning up with indicators of continual traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and oldsters more and more seem to be guiding their youngsters away from sort out football on the youth degree:

In September (2019), the NFSHSA witnessed its first decline in highschool sports activities participation in 30 years. The quantity fell from about 7.98 million to about 7.94 million – a 43,395 distinction – with football the largest contributor to the decline.

The sport clearly has an issue.

Over the previous 5 or 6 years, the NFL has taken a number of steps to strive to show that they’re conscious of the difficulty and that they care about it. They’ve modified the principles to strive to decrease helmet-to-helmet contact and penalize it closely when it happens. They’ve put protocols in place that require medical analysis for any serious head contact. No longer are these collisions merely written off as a participant “getting his bell rung.”

They’ve labored to add an array of helmet designs that ostensibly cut back the chance of mind trauma when these hits do happen. And, this offseason, they’ve added a requirement that gamers at sure positions put on “guardian caps” – basically padded coverings on their helmets – to strive to decrease the chance of head-jarring collisions ensuing from incidental collisions in the pre-season.

All of this appears to be transferring in the appropriate course to cut back concussions, however what if a few of it is not?

Raising the Red Flag

In so many respects, our default response to attempting to cut back or stop damage is typically to progressively enhance our defenses in opposition to it. In football, that may be seen dramatically with the evolution from a skinny leather-based cap and minimal physique padding 100 years in the past to the space-age materials clad gladiators that we have seen occupying the gridiron for the previous half-century.

And I believe most followers would see that as progress in the mission to hold gamers safer. But what if it isn’t? Informed by discussions occurring in the boxing world, I’ve been fascinated about this subject for the reason that controversy round head injuries began selecting up steam – maybe the final decade or so – and have been an advocate of the angle {that a} means to cut back serious head injuries in football are literally beginning to strip a few of the armor away.

Take away the indestructible plastic helmet and metallic facemask, and you will see loads of gamers involving their heads in intentional contact – for apparent causes. This perspective is not uniquely mine, after all.

I mentioned a very long time in the past in order for you to change the sport take the masks off the helmet,” Mike Ditka mentioned on NBC Sports. “It will change the sport lots. If you need to change the sport and get it again to the place folks aren’t hanging with the head and utilizing the head as a weapon, take the masks off the helmet.”

And, more and more, there is a physique of analysis that seems to be pointing in this course.

So, I used to be fascinated to get up this morning and see that at the least one NFL head coach is considering alongside related traces.

Robert Saleh, head coach of the New York Jets is not calling for the abolition of helmets, however he is elevating parallel considerations to those that I’ve outlined above in regards to the new guardian caps:

He’s involved that gamers will get into the behavior of utilizing their heads greater than they in any other case would, on condition that the Guardian Cap eases the influence.

I do assume due to the tender blow, it is form of lending the gamers to use their heads somewhat bit extraSaleh mentioned. “I do assume the primary time once they take it off — anybody who has performed football is aware of the primary time you’re taking your helmet off otherwise you hit with the helmet or you could have a collision, there is a shock. I do assume that should you’re ready till the primary recreation for that shock to occur. . . . I do not know, time will inform. It’s simply fascinating with these Guardian Caps and what precisely are we attempting to accomplish.”

In the identical means that fashionable helmets imbue gamers with a way that their heads are secure inside these highly-engineered confines, Saleh is suggesting that additional padding offered by the guardian caps probably lulls gamers into the false sense that head contact is not so unhealthy , and that there may find yourself really being purple head injuries because of this when the gamers return to enjoying with out the caps.

I believe that is a really astute perception, and that he is possible proper.

Well then, why not merely mandate guardian caps completely, in order that rebound impact by no means happens? I believe this is a fairly possible final result over the course of the subsequent couple of years. So what’s the issue?

Let’s say that the guardian caps cut back the impact of influence by 10% (the quantity cited above), however that they enhance the consolation degree that gamers really feel being somewhat extra reckless about their head by 15%. It’s nonetheless fairly doable to simply think about a situation the place the severity of hits drops a bit however the frequency of these hits will increase sufficiently to negate, and even reverse, these positive factors.

It’s not sufficient to take a look at the influence efficiency of helmets in laboratories. As Saleh so critically factors out, the factor that issues most is how these instruments are deployed in the true world, by precise gamers, not medical doctors, just like the NFL’s Allen Sills, who did not take kindly to Saleh’s disturbing lack of religion:

“The mind doesn’t acclimate to head impacts,” mentioned Sills. “The Guardian Cap helps mitigate these forces at a time of the season once we see the best focus of them.”

I applaud Saleh for elevating the difficulty, and I hope that, slightly than pursuing a solitary path of accelerating defensive gear escalation, that the league will give serious consideration to a far much less apparent potential solution, in order to save its gamers, save itself, and save the sport that all of us love dearly.


What do you assume the league ought to do about concussions?

  • 23%

    Not change a factor

    (13 votes)

  • 12%

    Mandate guardian caps

    (7 votes)

  • 39%

    Move in the direction of a helmetless future

    (22 votes)

  • 14%

    Something else (say in the feedback)

    (8 votes)

56 votes in complete

Vote Now

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