Safety (or lack thereof) in Football

Submitted by MGoBender on January 28th, 2013 at 10:06 PM

(I actually thought a recent topic had something worth discussing, however, the OP included something banned on these boards... Let's try this again).

A certain prominent public figure recent spoke about the future of football.

The Raven's Bernard Pollard said recently that he does not believe the NFL will exist in 30 years.

I have a few questions for discussion:

1. Would you feel OK about your son (real or theoretical) playing football? To what degree?

2. To what extent do you believe football can survive, as is?

3. What would you do to try to save the sport?


My responses:

1. I would discourage my theoretical son from playing football. While at the end of the day, it would be his choice, I'd encourage soccer or fall-ball baseball for an autumn sport. If he chose to play football, I would be a pretty worried person everyday.


2. Every year something changes and I don't think that will stop any time soon. So, no I think 10-15 years from now the game will be different.


3. I'd make hitting illegal.  If you do not attempt to wrap up with your arms and instead launch your body (whether you make contact with your shoulder or helmet), it would be a personal foul. 2 of them and you're ejected. 

Yeah, big hits are exciting. But how often do we lament the player going for the big hit and failing to bring down the ball carrier? I think we can eliminate hitting without taking too much away from the game.



January 28th, 2013 at 10:17 PM ^

No politics! They took our jobs and debt ceiling and switch to the metric system and quit raising the price of a stamp!!!

Section 1

January 28th, 2013 at 10:27 PM ^

I liked Mark Elzinga; and if I'm not mistaken he had an honorable career in the Secret Service, right?  I was shocked when Leach started as a freshman.  Elzinga may have been the best backup in the Conference.


January 28th, 2013 at 10:28 PM ^

Too much bullying in football, all of the hitting and touching each other. The game also ends with a loser which makes half the kids feel bad. They all deserve cake, ice cream, and a trophy. Let me know if I layed the sarcasm on thick enough

I Like Burgers

January 28th, 2013 at 10:29 PM ^


Rather than just giving a 15-yd penalty for an illegal head-to-head hit or hitting a defenseless receiver, I’d make it an automatic ejection.  The equivalent of a red card in soccer.  15-yards isn’t enough of a deterrent for something that can seriously injure someone.  And to determine whether or not the helmet-to-helmet was unavoidable, have the refs review the play.  

Easy, easy rule to put in.  For the players that don't like it?  Quit hitting people with your head dipshit.

I Like Burgers

January 28th, 2013 at 10:40 PM ^

Yeah, that's why I think reviewing all flagged illegal hit plays would be key.  Kinda like the 5-yd facemask penalty and the 15-yd version.  Sometimes the players are just moving too fast, or the offensive guy ducks his head into your way, and you just can't help it.  Make those a normal 15-yarder.  Or hell, take the soccer system a step further and make those the equivalent of a yellow card.  Get two in a game and you're ejected.


January 28th, 2013 at 10:47 PM ^

but the Trouba hit on Seckel earlier in the year is a perfect example of the NCAA applying that standard.

Also, I completely agree that penalties in football need a major overhaul. You're much more likely to win the game by taking cheap shots if you have no issue with injuring an opponent; fifteen yards for a deliberate attempt to injure is a ridiculous tradeoff.

I Like Burgers

January 28th, 2013 at 10:57 PM ^

Football is never going to fix itself.  Generations of players have been coached and taught to tackle poorly, which is why we're having all of these issues now.  The whole use your head to dislodge the ball concept is a perfect example.  That's just stupid, and its only accepted because that's the way its always been.  So yes, in order to save football from itself, some rule suggestions need to come from the outside to change the inbred way of thinking that currently resides in football.


January 28th, 2013 at 11:52 PM ^

what can you do as a DB when you try to dislodge the ball away from reciever? Just stand and wait til they land on the ground then tackle them? No, you hit them just as they catch the ball to dislodge it.  That's exactly what I've been taught to do as a S.

Obviously, if there's obvious intent to hit defenseless reciever when the ball is nowhere near it, then yes it's an automatic 15 yarder.

OSUMC Wolverine

January 28th, 2013 at 10:46 PM ^

My only beef with the penalties and fines for head to head hits is that they are only called on the defensive players.  A ball carrier leading with his head into contact should be penalized as well.  If you dont, it simply encourages the ball carrier to spear everyone they come in contact with...might get an extra 15 if you can hit the tacklers head.


January 28th, 2013 at 10:31 PM ^

1 - My son won't play football outside of being a kicker / punter. I'll sit him down and tell him what happens when you get hit thousands of times in low-grade collisions and explain I don't want him to risk permanent brain injury.

2 - Football can survive with a few reasonable changes. First, there is no need for tackle football before age 14. Second, college players should weigh no more than 285 pounds, and pro players need not weigh more than 300 pounds (remember when William Perry was an anomaly? I think Michigan has 2-3 linemen who weigh more than him, let alone NFL teams or Wisconsin's entire offensive line). Third, tackling with your head should be outlawed (the SEC would need 5 years to adjust). Fourth, expand NFL rosters so players with concussions don't feel pressure to return. Give teams 70 roster spots. Fifth, independent medical professionals on the sidelines of college and pro games, at a neutral location on the sidelines where coaches are not permitted to enter or congregate.

3 - I'd do about as much to save football as I'd do to save boxing or the UFC. The sport maims many of its participants. I don't care much if it goes away - I'll watch soccer and baseball instead.

Broken Brilliance

January 28th, 2013 at 10:38 PM ^

I'm not a father, but if I ever have a son who enjoys playing and watching the game as much as I do, I would never ban him from playing if it brings hom that much joy.
I think the right steps will be taken to gradually make the game safer. If it degenerates into sissy flag football, so be it. I love the basic objectives and elements of the game so much that I would probably be just as interested a pro-flag league if it was the only option...just my two cents.


January 28th, 2013 at 10:42 PM ^

I think it's more likely that we will all (ALL) be morbidly obese, confined to hovering chairs, plugged into permanent life support systems. Sports like football will be played by bionic cyborgs, and the hitting will be epic.


January 28th, 2013 at 10:48 PM ^

Implement the rules of the Pro Bowl for the regular season in terms of what the defense is allowed to do.  It results in a high scoring game with basketball scores but it would be a lot more entertaining than a defense battle.


January 28th, 2013 at 10:52 PM ^

I'm so mad that i missed that other thread you're talking about. Sounds like so much fun. I just once want someone to post something blatantly political and for the mods to let it reach its epic conclusion organically. It'd be like The Hunger Games of the blogosphere.


Section 1

January 29th, 2013 at 12:39 AM ^

I think you'd be disappointed.  I quoted Obama, on the subject of college football and concussions.  It's been a pretty controversial (non-politically) throughout the day.  The NCAA addressed the subject without referencing the President's statement, which is a kind of passive-aggressive way of dealing with it.

Anyway, the original story was an Obama story just because it was an Obama quote.  I wrote that I was not aware (as Obama alleged) that there were "stories" of college football players with histories of concussions "had nothing to fall back on."  That's what Obama said, and I asked if anyone knew of such "stories."  That's it.  I tried really hard to herd the cats and keep it on topic and I was getting somewhere with some exceptions, but a mod shut it down.  The Board's sensibilities are just a bit too fragile to handle something like that.


January 28th, 2013 at 11:00 PM ^

This is a really interesting topic, one that I think will become more pressing. The issues with head injuries are escalating toward a level that will be unsusainable. Something will have to change.

My answers to the questions:

1. I don't know. I have daughters, and coordination doesn't run in my family; I do kind of wish I had played football now and don't believe a few years of high school ball would've hurt me.

2. Football can survive. What will need to change may change the appearance and style of the game a bit, but it will be able to continue. 

3. Regarding those changes:

As has been mentioned, changing the way people tackle. Good, proper, repeatable tackles can be made without destroying someone. Other types of contact may need to be modified, too--the impact of the offensive and defensive lines may need to be tweaked.

There may be an as-yet-undeveloped advancement in technology that will allow helmets to offer full protection while still reducing G-force impacts. 

Here's the thing that nobody seems to talk about, but it's beginning to drive me nuts: Football needs to address its PED issue. It is obvious to everyone involved that football has become faster and bigger in the last 30 years. It's not like guys weren't using advanced workouts and nutrition supplements in the 80s; nobody worked harder than Jerry Rice, for example. Why have things changed so much? Drugs are the obvious, inevitable answer.

There may be a few who read that and scoff, thinking that it isn't a big issue. Really? Steroids and other drugs increase speed and strength, which are both essential characteristics for football players. You will be more effective and will make more money. And while the NFL has had testing for decades, the last decade has shown us that testing doesn't really get the job done. Lance Armstrong "never failed a test" and yet has now admitted that he was juiced to the gills; Marion Jones the same. These are people that faced testing far more stringent than the NFL provides, and were not caught. 

Anyone with the resources can beat the system. It is plainly clear to me that much, probably most, of the NFL does. 

And until they address the issue honestly, they will not fix the problem of bigger and stronger men hitting each other at high velocities. 


January 28th, 2013 at 11:01 PM ^

I played tackle football in 7th and 8th grade, 30 years ago. Back then, hitting with your helmet was called "spearing" and resulted in a 15 yard penalty. I'm amazed that people complain about penalties being called for "helmet-to-helmet" hits, because when I played, that was a penalty, regardless if the player was defenseless or not. When I played, we had knee pads, thigh pads, hip pads, and tailbone pads. Players today, particularly in the NFL, don't wear any pads below the waist, so naturally, they are much faster and their hits are that much harder. So two changes I would make would actually be to make the game more like it was - vigorously enforce the no spearing rule, and make players wear pads.

I got hit once in practice by our middle linebacker, he was a grade above me, and about 30-40 pounds heavier. My whole left arm went numb, I fumbled the ball because I had no feeling in my arm, and I got cussed out by a coach for fumbling. I realized then that football was a tough game. I kept playing because I enjoyed the game, but that was an eye-opener.

I have an 8 year old son. So far, he hasn't shown an interest in playing football. I would have to think long and hard about letting him play. Does that make me a hypocrite? Maybe, but my son and his health comes first. If someone else's kid wants to risk their health, that is their business, as long as the information is out there.

Somebody mentioned soccer. The youth leagues around here don't let players use their heads for fear of concussions or head trauma. I wonder about the adult soccer players who take kicks from goalies 2/3 of the way down the field off their heads. I can't imagine that's much different than boxers getting hit in the head repeatedly, leading to the punch-drunk phenomenon. Every sport has risks involved - my wife tore her calf muscle playing badminton, and I lost two teeth playing that game. You've got to live your life though.


January 29th, 2013 at 12:48 AM ^

The problem isn't nearly as big as it's made out to be.…


For those with serious problems, there are 10 that are fine and 4 with mild issues. Football is around a 150 years old; it's not as if it's some new sport. Physically violent sports have always been part of human culture, if it's not football it'll be something else.  That doesn't make the tragic cases ok, but it also isn't as much of a pandemic as its being made out to be. 


1. I'd let my kid play football in high school and explain to him the ramifications and possibility of injuries and explain that despite the fact that I love football, I chose to play a different sport in part because I didn't like the idea of being battered. Football is like smoking, you know the risks, but I'm not going to tell my kids, once they're old enough to understand, how to live their lives.


2. Football will survive as it has for over a century. The president threatened to ban it in the early 1900s and changes were made. Changes will continue to be made to helmets, rules, etc, but it'll still be a brutal sport where guys get hurt.  My guess is that eventually they'll test players for CTE and they'll be forced into retirement to cover the NFL's liabilities. 


3. I'd go back to leather helments, which would offer protection but probably end killshots. If not that, then force every NFL player to have brain scans for damage. 


January 29th, 2013 at 12:00 AM ^

1. I wouldn't even worry about it unless he was good enough to play college. And at that point he's gone so far and has a full ride, that there's a slim chance he wouldn't want to play anymore.

2. I believe they can keep it safe and not change the game too much.

3. Make the "strike zone" part of the rules. Strike zone being above the knees, below the shoulders. And obviously you can't lead with your helmet. Pretty much that's making "fundamental tackling" the rule. You can't leave your feet to tackle, unless diving to make a shoe string tackle. That takes glamour out of defense that everyone has loved and endorsed for so long. But I believe that would solve most problems just with that little bit.


January 29th, 2013 at 12:24 AM ^

Mentioning Barack Obama is not political in this thread. The other thread looked like a debate about football safety. There is no reason that political opinions cannot be referenced about a non political debate. Let's get our moderation standards straight.


January 29th, 2013 at 12:39 AM ^

I have a son. He is nearing 10 months old. His right kidney is a pelvic kidney and it is a Multi-Cystic Dysplastic kidney (basically his right kidney is in his pelvis instead of up higher in the back, and it doesn't work because it just has cysts filled with fluid in it instead of working kidney tissue). You only need 1 kidney to live, and his left kidney is fully functional. Since his left kidney does all the work it is enlarged, and therefore, more sucseptible to injury. 

Roughly 10 seconds after the diagnosis the first question i ask, naturally, "What does this mean for his sports career?", trying to make it like I was being a little funny but my wife and the doc both knew it was a serious inquiry. 

The doc basically said he should be able to live a normal life but should probably not ride motorcycles or do jousting or anything with a high probability of blunt forced trauma. All sports should be fine, and we'll continue to monitor everything as he grows up. 

The first thing I say is "Well, then he shouldn't play football, right?".

Doc looks me square in the eye and says "If you're not going to let him play football, it's because of head injuries, not his kidneys."

This absolutely floored me. My son has 1 working kidney, more likely to be injured because it is enlarged from doing all the work, and if it IS injured could cause my son to need a transplant, go through dialysis, crazy procedures, possibly ending fatally... and the doctor is still saying that head injuries would be more of a concern from playing football. 

I love sports, including football. Played every sport I could growing up. Football, basketball and baseball in high school and low level college basketball. Wasn't really good at football, and never really played much. If I could go back it's the one sport I wouldn't have played in high school. I was always entering the basketball season hurt and not in the right shape. 

But I am a huge sports fan. I look forward to watching many more Michigan games with my son. I can't wait for his first trip to the Big House. Growing up in this family he will be around all sports, including football. And I'm somewhat scared to death of the decision I'll be faced with if he wants to play football. 

I don't want to rob him of any activity that brings him joy. I don't want to teach him to live life scared. I don't know. I guess my plan as of now is not to shield him from football, but to try and have a baseball, mitt, basketball, golf club and whatever else in his hands early and often. 

But if he comes to me asking to play football, I honestly don't know what I'll do. Hopefully the game is safer by then. At least i have a little time to figure it out. 



Section 1

January 29th, 2013 at 12:44 AM ^

If he doesn't get involved in jousting, all of the other kids with chargers and lances and suits of armor will just be laughing at him.  And, I probably don't need to tell you this, but a knighthood is probably out of the question for him.  To say nothing of his chances of ever marrying a princess.  I just hope for your sake that your neighborhood doesn't have any evil-doing Dukes or Earls.


January 29th, 2013 at 1:03 AM ^

Are you not entertained? Let them play, football is not as dangerous as skiing, or riding an four Wheeler. You have just as much chance off blowing out you're knee running marathons. Playing on a trampoline is more dangerous then football.