Sorry in advance for the extremely lengthy post, just my attempt at creating some “rigorous debate”. But honestly, what more can the NFL/refs do to prevent concussions?
To say nothing has changed I feel is an absolutely inaccurate depiction of the situation. Check out any game from decades past and you’ll see 30 downs where a player gets nearly decapitated and nobody bats an eye. The NFL has come a long way from where they were when it comes to taking steps towards protecting players. Some hits are obviously malicious, but they assess penalties, fines, review plays after the game, and suspend players for weeks if need-be. The pads are as good as they can be, and there are jobs that are dedicated to researching and improving equipment when possible.
We would need to upgrade pads/safety equipment far beyond what we know/ are capable of doing right now, and proposing something like "take pads away" would never be taken seriously. If you ask me, the raise in concussions isn't necessarily about the player/safety relations (players are more informed than ever, causing many to retire early) but rather the increased level of athleticism, power, finesse, and speed at all positions.
Everyone has a "proper" way to tackle until you're faced with a 240 pound monster that runs a 4.4 barreling towards you. Simply put, in the words of Mike Tyson, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. When it’s someone’s job to physically impose their will in order to stop you, these things will happen, and as long as you’re watching, it nullifies the need to take action because they’re still making $$$.
To my knowledge, there has been an emphasis throughout little league, and developmental teams to educate children about concussions from the start which should pay dividends to our up-and-coming athletes that could make it to the NFL. Nonetheless, we’re still years away from seeing something like that pay off. And as I’m sure you’re aware, the NFL has effectively gotten rid of kickoff returns, and could do away with them completely in the near future in the name of player safety.
SO, with all that being said, I present the question again: With this becoming a major concern, what more can be done? Do we allow the NFL to start by taking away kickoffs, and eventually tinker with the game enough to make it almost unrecognizable? Do we allow these hits to continue and just inform athletes that by playing the sport they could possibly be digging their own grave? Do we assess targeting penalties similar to college football? Because some coaches/ upper managment don't always make decisions with a players longevity in mind, I think if someone lobbied for a third party medical staff for teams, rather than one that works on behalf of the team, it could help so that there’s no incentive to rush players back on the field. And as much as some people may disagree, I feel like the NFL is making an effort to protect players (and their wallets since the NFL has been under a barrage of lawsuits from former players) more so than years past, but it is nowhere near where it needs to be. What are your thoughts?