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Steps to Solve the NFL’s Growing Concussion Crisis

After the recent $765 million NFL settlement with 4,500 former league players for on-the-field concussion-related brain injuries, this represents just the first step in the ongoing challenge to combat the league’s concussion crisis. There’s more that can be done and here’s a few steps that could move it along.

Wear Pads

For the 2013 season, the NFL adopted a rule change that has mandated all players–with the exception of kickers and punters– wear knee and thigh pads for league games. It wasn’t widely applauded as players find it cumbersome and it affects their speed but they are adjusting to the change, which had been implemented for players’ safety and health.

Other sports, including NCAA football, have this requirement and by doing so by the NFL, it also sets an example for younger players in the sport; reported the Baltimore Sun.

Change the design of helmets

There’s been talk of changing players’ helmets, making them in new shapes, hi-tech materials or with pads to combat concussions. The naysayers think you have to first acknowledge how concussions occur and maybe changing a helmet’s design isn’t the answer.

Dave Halstead, who leads the University of Tennessee’s Sports Biomechanics Impact Research Laboratory,  first pointed out that helmets have been intended to prevent skull fractures, reported Sports Illustrated, and second, a concussion comes from impact–something that a helmet can’t really help.

Helmets utilized in different sports have various designs that soften the impact but can it be done for football? It is the nature of the sport to hit one another and while a helmet may lessen the blow, it doesn’t end with a helmet.

And we all know, the sport isn’t really going to change.

Involve More People

Last year, CBS Sports opined about the “growing concussion crisis” and suggested 10 ways to fix it in an article by Mike Freeman. It included an array of ideas but here’s a few interesting ones:

  • Hire more concussion monitors. Assign three concussion monitors per game, one in the booth, and two on the field (one for each sideline). These three monitors would look for a player who exhibits signs of a concussion and they would be independent from team medical staff. The monitors would be given independent authority to call a timeout and have a player examined.
  • If a flagrant hit leads to a concussion and missed time by a player, then the offending player must sit out the same number of games as the injured one misses. This is simple fairness, and of all the proposals, might be the most immediately effective.
  • No 18-game schedule and consider the impossible: going back to a 14-game schedule. Simple math. Fewer games, fewer hits. There should also be just two preseason games.

Will players embrace change?

You know the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Will NFL players really embrace change to the game to make it safer? Last May, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White wasn’t too sympathetic about the former NFL players suing the league over concussions. He tweeted, “It’s crazy how football players are killing our game you signed up to play a violent game and made a lot of money now u talk bad about [it].”

With the recent settlement, it does nothing to change how the game of football is played. It may acknowledge the repercussions of it but between the fans, the players and owners, one of the things we love about football is its physicality. This will never go away but can it become safer is the question.

 

Debbie Baratz

Deb has been writing about the NFL and NCAA football for the last few years. She is a full-time writer and an avid sports fan. Follow her on twitter @ldbar.

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