In recent years, the NFL has adopted new rules to prevent concussions on the field. They range from no longer being able to hit players with the crown of their helmet to no hits on defenseless players. These new additions to the Official NFL Playing Rules have stirred up a large controversy about football in the NFL. Many people claim that the integrity of the game has been ruined with no more big hits on players while others view the rules as a necessary step forward to protecting the players in the long run. In an attempt to educate the public on the reasons for and against the new rules, this article will depict the opinions of each side of the argument allowing you to form an opinion based on current events, reports, and studies.
The New Rules are a Step in the Right Direction
“Six weeks on the bench or a lifetime of confusion?” ABC News’ Katie Moisse could not have put it more perfectly. The argument on whether the new rules, to prevent concussions, in the National Football League (NFL) are ruining the integrity of the game should be over. No matter which point defending the integrity of football is brought up, it does not trump the serious injuries and illnesses of, concussion related, brain trauma.
Too many times have fans weighed in on the argument stating that the new rules are leading to a more boring game to watch without the big and hard hits that they loved to see. But most current fans were use to watching those types of hits before moderve science discovered the link between concussions in football, and serious brain injuries and illnesses. While some of the modern, and most of the past, generations believed it was fun to watch football played that way, future generations will understand that the consequences of concussions outweighs watching players barbarically injure each other for their personal entertainment; just as modern society views gladiatorial games. Fans rely too much on major football celebrities for information on concussions, and most of these football celebrities claim concussions are not as harmful as stated by the NFL and other research. It’s easy for them to get people to believe what they say since, competent, major football celebrities remain in the spotlight while those who face the consequences of concussions remain out of it. For example, Mike Ditka made a statement about leg injuries, due to rules prevent head-to-head contact, being more dangerous than concussions. “Helmets are the most sophisticated piece of football equipment. What do you have on your knee? Unless you wear a brace, you’ve got nothing.” It’s Mike Ditka, the former NFL player and head coach of two NFL teams; he must know what he’s talking about, right? Wrong. Helmets may be the most sophisticated piece of football equipment but is football equipment overall very sophisticated? Not so much. He also states that players have nothing to protect their leg, unless they have brace. So why don’t the players wear braces to protect their knees then? It’s easy to believe a man like Mike Ditka because of his stature and history with football but he is in not a doctor nor has he proven to have any scientific knowledge of concussions. But with the new discoveries and the lawsuit brought against the NFL many players are beginning to educate themselves on the issue at hand. Commenting on Ditka’s input in the argument, Leonard Marshall stated that Ditka’s comments were “irresponsible” and that “The ramifications of a concussion are more severe than the complications of a broken leg. The cognitive effects of severe head trauma are quite tremendous."
The current desperate attempt to find a way to rid the NFL of their new concussion preventing rules is that leg injuries, due to the no head to head hits being allowed, are potentially more harmful to a player than concussions. But science constantly proves that statement wrong. In the NFL the average amount of time spent on the bench for a concussion is two weeks and for a leg injury, four to five weeks. With this data in hand, it may seem that concussions are not more harmful than leg injuries, but the long-term effects prove concussions to be severely more harmful. Torn ligaments and fractured bones can heal very easily and multiple times, but this does not apply to neurons within the brain. In the CDC’s (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) “Facts About Concussion and Brain Injury” article it states that “People who have had repeated concussions may have serious long-term problems, including chronic difficulty with concentration, memory, headache, and occasionally, physical skills, such as keeping one’s balance.” But the effects can be much more drastic than as stated by the CDC. A recent study, published in the medical journal Neurology, found that of more than 3,400 long-term players between 1959 and 1988 found the risk of death from neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), was triple that seen in the general population. This is because brain cells are not able to regenerate after maturity. Therefore, if a cell is destroyed or injured, it can neither heal itself, nor replace itself, with a new cell, proving that brain injuries remain permanent while almost all leg injuries can heal.
The NFL currently has eighteen brains of football players that they tested for CTE, out of those eighteen, one came back positive. If one in eighteen NFL players develop a progressive degenerative disease due to too many concussions the answer is clear. The new rules preventing concussions should remain.
It’s Not Football Anymore
All throughout high school football, I was taught to lead with the crown of my helmet and drive through the opponent’s chest with no second thoughts. Sure, I had my share of concussions, every football player at some point does. Signing up for tackle football comes with potential consequences, and every single player knows those risks going in. The rule changes in the National Football League are compromising the integrity of the game, and are eliminating certain elements of football that make it the greatest sport in the world.
Earlier in the season, a run by Jackie Battle, of the Tennessee Titans, drew a fine – one that looked like a perfectly legal hit at first glance - that is indicative of the ludicrous rule changes in the National Football League. Battle had his head down, and delivered a blow right into the opponent, unintentionally hitting the crown of his helmet of the other player’s helmet. It was a picture-perfect run, a running back’s dream. There was no penalty called on the field for unnecessary roughness, but Battle was fined $21,000, later that week, for the hit. According to the rule, which Battle broke (which was implemented for the first time this year) it is against the rules for “…a player [to use] any part of his helmet (including the top/crown and forehead/”hairline” parts) or facemask to butt, spear, or ram an opponent violently or unnecessarily.
Battle was asked about the fine by the Titan Insider, saying, “I didn’t expect it. I thought it was a perfectly legal play. I’ve been running like that my whole career, so I didn’t think they’d get me for it. [The fine] came yesterday. I couldn’t even eat lunch. It made me sick.” When asked if he would change his running style following the fine, Battle continued, “I’m not changing my style one bit, I’m a physical runner. I’ve got to protect myself. If somebody’s gonna go low on me, I’ve got to get low too. The low man wins. I’m not gonna change the way I run one bit.” This fine embodies what is wrong about the recent rule implementations by the NFL. Battle lowered his head to deliver the blow just as previous NFL greats, such as Earl Campbell, did. Being lower than your opponent and driving your feet will not only greater your chance of success by utilizing the strongest part of your body, but will decrease one’s chances of injury as well. This rule (decrease one’s chances of injury as well. This rule (which would deem the infamous hit that Earl Campbell put on the sternum of Isaiah Robertson in 1978 illegal), along with other rules implemented by the National Football League in recent years, discredits the importance of this notion and imperils the purity that the game of football always had.
Not only are the recent rule implementations endangering the integrity of the game, but are resulting in an increasing number of ACL and knee injuries that are ending players’ season. Many players around the NFL are tearing their ACL more frequently than in past years. This weekend alone, Reggie Wayne, Brian Cushing, and Sam Bradford all tore their ACL and are out for the season. When asked about how the new league guidelines affect his play, Ed Reed said “It sucks, man. It sucks really bad. It affects me, man. I thought about it coming into this game.” He later said that the rule changes are “definitely changing the game. It’s become an offensive league. They want more points. They want the physical play out of it. Bending the rules and making the game different, you know, is only going to make the game worse.” The instincts of the defensive player are thrown totally off balance. Instead of hitting high, players are compensating for the new targeting rules by aiming low, causing more injuries below the belt than ever before, especially the dreaded torn ACL.
Something has got to give in the National Football League. Implementing rules that protect players’ heads will only cause players to hit lower; resulting in more lower-body injuries. The NFL needs to do a better job in walking the fine line between protecting players’ safety and compromising the integrity of the game. If this issue is not taken care of soon and in the correct manner, every Sunday millions of fans will watch grown men take the field to compete in a frivolous game of two-hand touch.
In the end, it's not easy to choose a side to stand with; both arguments have their points. But until scientists create new helmet technologies to completely eliminate the chances of concussions, one side has to be right and one has to be wrong.There's only one question left; which is it?