Can Concussions and Spinal Injuries Be Eliminated from High-impact Sports?
P1. There have been countless lives that have been altered forever, or even ended because of concussions or spinal injuries. When a person plays a high impact sport, their chances of a life changing injury dramatically increases. Repetitive concussions have been proved to cause CTE, and just one spinal injury could put a person in a wheelchair for the rest of their life. Some could argue that people accept this risk upon participating in an intense activity, but walking away with a life debilitating injury is not a thought for players. Recently, rugby and football alike have begun studying concussions and spinal injuries in an attempt to reduce them.
P2. When watching a football game at any level, the spectator can expect to see powerful blows to the head and spine. The high energy hits are the thrill of playing and watching the game, but cumulative hits cause serious damage. NFL players are the highest level football players in the world, and they are the ones that receive the most and worst head injuries. The NFL has been taken to court with over 4,000 lawsuits from players and their families because of concussions. Such a large organization would surely have some knowledge and capabilities to prevent these injuries, but they did not worry about it until recently. As more people become aware of the dangers, they are less likely to support the game or allow their developing children to play. If there is a way to prevent or entirely eliminate concussions, people would feel more comfortable with allowing their children to play football. A different tackling technique has been adopted from rugby to increase the safety of football players. An article published by The Telegraph states:
Several American colleges have studied this way of tackling. The Seattle Seahawks have worked with Fijian rugby sevens star Waisale Serevi on “taking the head out of the game”. Rugby techniques have subsequently been introduced at Washington, Florida and Michigan State – whose head coach Mark Dantonio extols the benefits of rugby–style tackling.
P3. This type of tackling emphasizes player safety and not putting the head in danger during contact. Rugby players do not wear padding or helmets, so tackling is not as violent as football. The players must be cognizant of their body position and in complete control of their movement. Rugby has an injury issue of its own, but it is spinal injuries the players suffer from. Players can suffer from concussions or CTE just like football players, but it is less likely. Jojo Moyes wrote an article for Independent about the high risk of spinal injuries rugby players face. In the article, she wrote:
Ben Smoldon, 21, successfully sued a referee after he was left paralysed following the collapse of a scrum. The new figures reveal that nearly half of all serious rugby injuries occurred in players under 26 and nearly a quarter resulted in the patient needing a ventilator to breathe.
P4. Similar to football, rugby has had lawsuits due to injuries. When players from both teams form a scrum, there is a massive amount of pressure acting on the players. If a scrum collapses or a player is not in the right body position, it can cause them to break their neck or seriously injure their spine. Younger players are not fully developed which puts them at a higher risk of injury.
P5. Both, rugby and football are high impact sports that struggle with serious head and spine injuries. There is no one method that will immediately eliminate all life changing injuries from these sports, but doctors and players can continue working together to take preventative measures making the sports safer. Future studies about impact to the head and spine will help to further the safety of players and keep intense sports like rugby and football around for years to come.
Moyes, Jojo. “Risk of Spinal Injuries Highest in Rugby.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 22 Apr. 1996, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/risk-of-spinal-injuries-highest-in-rugby-1306291.html.
Tmg. “Is Rugby or American Football More Dangerous?” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 25 Jan. 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/concussion/is-rugby-or-american-football-more-dangerous/.