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 29th, 2013 at 1:30 AM ^

Im getting really tired of this subject, Especially since most people know little to nothing about youth sports and the proposed solutions are pretty silly.  I have a 12 and 11 year old they have both played since they were 7.  I've coached every year that they played.

Im not not going to respond the questions but i will say this.

A-Helmets are 100x safer than they were 10 years ago

Aa-Reseach is saying its not the hits causing brain damage its the rolling of the brain in the head, so contact at all is going to casue damage.

B-Kids are being taught the correct way to tackle.  A form has had more emphasis than ever.

C-in my 5 years of coaching youth football Ive never seen 1 concussion in a kid under 12.

D-unlike 15 years ago players arent being told to suck it up and keep playing.  If a kid is thought to have a concussion, they have to be cleared medically to play.  If they do have a concussion they're out a minimum of 2 weeks and have to be cleared by a nuerologist before they can play again.



January 29th, 2013 at 5:25 AM ^

1. Yes, because it would be his choice, and I don’t think the risk of acquiring significant brain damage at the HS level is as much of risk as it is on the collegiate and pro levels.  I wouldn’t encourage or necessarily discourage him, but I would let him know of the potential dangers and risks of playing the sport and let him make his choice about it just like my mother did with me, but I wouldn’t allow him to play until HS though.  But to be honest if I didn’t play at the HS school level, I probably would feel like a lot of you feel about not letting your son play at all.

2. I’m not sure.  There are times where I feel like this sport is on its death bed, and other time’s when I don’t and just think it’s at a cross road’s like it was in 1905, and that unless they do finally invent the magical helmet that everyone is either praying or hoping for that this game once again is going to have to evolve into something else.  That although is safer for its participants, is also dangerous and violent enough to keep the American public entertained.

3. With the way the game is played today I’m not sure you can make it any safer than they have already made it with the new rules (which I don’t mind btw).  Making player’s wrap up when tackling like in Rugby (someone can correct me if I’m wrong here), is an interesting proposal but it still won’t get rid of many of the games big collision’s (LB’s taking on block’s, blocks on ST’s, OL/DL play etc.) that result in sub concussive blow’s which we know contribute to brain disease just as much as suffering concussion’s do.

This OT but TBH I feel guiltier about watching CFB then I do of the NFL.  At least current NFL players are getting well compensated for the damage they do their bodies, and they now know the risks of playing the sport at that level.  While many of the participant’s in CFB now know of the game’s risk to their long term health, you have to wonder if the “education” that they receive is worth the damage they do upon their bodies.  I love CFB but there are times when I wonder, if the game would be better off if the NFL just established a minor league/D league, and 99% of HS player’s would be done playing the sport at the age of 18.


January 29th, 2013 at 5:48 AM ^…

And just per the Bernard Pollard quote, when I first saw the story, I thought he was referring to the collective future weight of lawsuits eventually dragging the NFL down.  The thought that the NFL will cease to exist someday because it isn't violent enough, to me, is off in fringe survivalist zombie apocalypse land somewhere as a real concern.

So, to your Q's:

1.  Yes, with reservations and encouragement to go with a sport you can play your whole life instead

2.  see above re: Pollard

3.  I think they're on the right track with taking away launching and moving closer to rugby-style tackling (I played h.s. football and college rugby, and had concussions in both, generally speaking the rugby tackling was more form-conscious and still very physical)


January 29th, 2013 at 7:52 AM ^

And I don't agree at all with the OP. While I do believe that soccer is fun to play, it is boring as hell to watch (IMO) and I really don't want the US to become even more European. Without hitting football wouldn't be nearly as fun to watch and some of the best plays happen because people go for the hit and don't wrap up (like Denard splitting the buckeye hit sandwich last November).

As for letting my kid play, I wouldn't discourage them but I would teach them to play as safe as possible and I would love to watch them lay down a big hit (as long as they lead with the shoulder and not the helmet).


January 29th, 2013 at 8:27 AM ^

These boys, young men, and men are playing football voluntarily, are they not? By now I'm sure their well aware of the safety concerns of full contact football.

So I suppose it's a personal choice wether they choose to play or not. Coal mining and crab fishing are still dangerous yet people still choose to do it.


January 29th, 2013 at 10:56 AM ^

I played football and lacrosse in high school all four years, two sports known for their violence.  In fact, I was recruited to the lacrosse team, knowing nothing of the sport, strictly because of my size and strength by the lacrosse coach in the winter offseason when he saw me in the weight room.  Our entire defense on our lacrosse team was members of the hockey and/or football teams strictly so we could lay out the opposing players with big hits.  Our entire defensive philosophy was to try to hit the other players so hard right from the opening faceoff that they'd be afraid to come anywhere near the goal, and it often worked.

In the course of my career, I sustained 5 concussions.  Two from lacrosse and three from football.  The two lacrosse ones came on the same play in my junior year:  I was crosschecked in the back of the head getting one to the back of my head, and getting the second on the front of my head when I face planted from the hit.  I came out of the game for maybe 5 minutes tops and went back in after popping a bunch of advil and getting my vision back (it was blurry for awhile).  The medical staff at my school just wasn't equipped to properly monitor players in a game and the trainer did nothing to stop me from going back in - it was the playoffs and I didn't want to let my coach or teammates down.  Those were my 3rd and 4th concussions of my career overall, and the training staff didn't prevent me from returning for my senior year and getting my fifth concussion since they did no followup after the lacrosse season ended.

Since I have a son now, I don't think I'd want him playing football or lacrosse, or hockey for that matter.  My wife is 4'10" so the odds are that he will be smaller rather than larger like me, even if he is midway between my wife and I for size, he's still going to be a smaller player so he'd likely be a ballcarrier and thus getting hit more (I was a lineman).  I'd feel safer about him playing soccer, baseball (although a wild pitch to the head is always a risk) or basketball, compared to football, hockey, or lacrosse.

Football will survive, because there will always be a market for it.  People are willing to pay to see people inflict pain on others.  Case in point:  Hockey fights.  Aside from a goal, what revs the crowd up more than a hockey fight?  I think the sport will have to find ways to make the equipment safer, and the helmet manufacturers are working on that, things like the sensors built right in to the helmets that advise of a concussion impact.  That probably will be too costly for any non pro or NCAA team to use however; I can't see that being used in peewee or high school sports.  But pro sports will survive, because we as a species have a bloodlust.  Modern physical sports are just like the ancient gladiator games, or the Aztecs' violent hoops game, we just don't kill the losers at the end anymore.  But deep down there are just too many people that want to witness someone beating the crap out of someone else, which is why MMA has gotten so popular.  Heck, even NASCAR has a lot of fans that just want to watch it for the crashes.  We have a trainwreck mentality, wanting to see something bad happen and enjoying it when it does.