This week on Thursday Night Football, a sudden play sparked a huge brawl between the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins. During the second quarter on third down, Ravens starting quarterback Joe Flacco scrambled out of the pocket and ran for the first down. As many quarterbacks do, Flacco slid feet first into the turf to avoid injury. There is a mutual understanding to avoid hitting the quarterback. As Flacco slid, Miami linebacker Kiko Alonso delivers an unnecessary hit to the sliding QB. After the hit, Flacco’s helmet comes off and he receives a concussion. Ravens players start to push Alonso down, sparking a brawl between each team. Sure this hit was extremely unnecessary and Alonso could have avoided Flacco, but he didn’t. There was nothing to stop the 6’3 233 lb linebacker, no barrier, nothing. The only thing protecting Flacco was his shoulder pads, and his helmet. As soon as the hit was received, Flacco received a concussion and his helmet came right off. How safe really was he? Would it have been better if he was not wearing a helmet?
Flacco’s concussion is just one of the injuries received in the 2017-2018 NFL season. This year has been one filled with injuries to big stars, teams losing vital pieces, and fantasy football team owners losing their minds. You can make a whole team with backups with the injuries that happened this year. This shows that no position is safe from the violence of football. Aaron Rodgers, a future hall of famer has a broken collar bone. Giants star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has a broken ankle. Eagles future hall of famer LT Jason Peters has a torn ACL and MCL. These injuries just prove how violent the game is, it doesn’t matter if you are 5’11 and 170 lbs or 6’5 and 330 lbs, everyone gets injured. It is just the violence of the game.
The injured players all wore helmets and pads, yet still were injured. The pads may have absorbed some of the blow, but again the players were still injured. Helmets do nothing, they may seem like they do, but they really don’t. Many propose to take away tackling or just ban the game, but this is really not a solution. If we can not protect the players from this violent game, then maybe we might have to protect the violent game from the players. Im sure when Walter Camp changed the rules from Rugby into American football he did not want players to become seriously injured. The violent nature comes from the players, they don’t have to make an enormous hit, but they do anyway. These enormous hits, they cause injuries. Why do they do this, a concept called Risk Compensation. Protective equipment, like helmets and pads, may prompt users to act more aggressively and thereby increase the potential for serious injury. Im sure when a football player is on the field with no helmet he is not going to make a risky play, but give him a helmet and he will make that play knowing he is suppose to be protected. In the 1940’s, when there were no plastic helmets, players were taught the initial point of contact should be the shoulder. In the 1960’s when todays helmets made their first appearance, players were taught that the initial point of contact was the head due to it being protected. There was a noted increase in tackling drill fatalities between 1945 to 1954 and 1955 to 1964. The players in the 40s and early 50s had no helmets, but this time period has a significantly less number of tackling drill fatalities than when helmets were invented. Risk compensation is also found in other sports such as, baseball, hockey, skiing, snowboarding, and bicycling. Risk management is even found in rugby.
Rugby is the sport that started American football. Walter Camp changed the rules of rugby to create American football. It is an American tradition that cannot ever be taken away, that is why we need to fix it. Rugby is absolutely a violent sport, players are jumping, running, hitting, being put into giant huddles, and players are even being thrown, and they do this all without any protective equipment. If you ask many Americans, they may not understand the rules about Rugby. Rugby does not have as much injuries as it does in football. It is ironic that the sport with the most protective equipment has more injuries. In the British Journal of Sports Medicine there is a study about Rugby. In this study, scientists wanted to find out if headgear reduces the incidence of concussions in Rugby. Sixteen under 15 rugby union teams were recruited from three interschool competitions in metropolitan Sydney and the adjacent country region. A prospective study was undertaken over a single competitive season. The study had two arms: a headgear arm and a control arm. Headgear wearing rates and injury data were reported to the investigators and verified using spot checks. “A total of 294 players participated in the study. There were 1179 player exposures with headgear and 357 without headgear. In the study time frame, there were nine incidences of concussion; seven of the players involved wore headgear and two did not. There was no significant difference between concussion rates between the two study arms.” The conclusion was that although there is some controversy about the desirability of wearing protective headgear in football, this pilot study strongly suggests that current headgear does not provide significant protection against concussion in rugby union at a junior level. As you can see risk management was present in this study. Out of the 9 players, 7 were wearing the head gear. Due to having protection, here players must have felt more safe, and make more riskier hits.
Risk management is all around us and is not just on a sports field. When you are driving, are you more likely to drive more risky if you have your seatbelt on than if you didn’t? When boating are you going to drive your boat more risky with your life vest? With the phenomenon of risk management defined, we can now determine how to fix the problem of concussions in football. With the definition of risk management in our minds we can safely say that taking away helmets in football will make it safer and reduce the number on concussions.
Hagel, Brent PhD*; Meeuwisse, Willem MD, PhD “Risk Compensation: A “Side Effect” of Sport Injury Prevention?” Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine.
A S McIntosh, P McCrory “Effectiveness of headgear in a pilot study of under 15 rugby union football” British Journal of Sports Medicine http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/35/3/167.short
Brad Gagnon Nov 3, 2017 . “NFL 2017 All-Injured Team Is Loaded with Pro Bowl Players at Halfway Point of Season.” CBSSports.com, 3 Nov. 2017, www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/nfl-2017-all-injured-team-is-loaded-with-pro-bowl-players-at-halfway-point-of-season/.