Spring is arriving, and even more importantly for sports fans, baseball is just around the corner. But even with just weeks after the Super Bowl, the football world is never quiet. This past week prospective NFL players displayed their skills in the NFL Combine, and soon, before we know it the NFL Draft will be upon us. Everyone in the NFL and college football realm; coaching staffs are working on their playbooks, athletes are busy training for the fall season, and even officials are hard at work rethinking the issues of the game.
One of the hot-button issues that officials are re-thinking is the unavoidably common helmet-to-helmet collision. Rules, such as the Targeting Rule, have been established in the collegiate and NFL level, penalizing players performing deliberate helmet-to-helmet contact with immediate ejection from the game and a 15-yard loss. While this is an important rule implemented, it only takes away the intentional action from a collision that is bound to happen in the game of football.
In further response to this issue, there has been an outcry for coaches to reform teaching methods on proper tackling and hitting techniques, to which coaches have complied. Coaches have since been teaching players to not lead their helmets when tackling, which has changed the game for the better. But other factors are at large here. According to Coach Mike Swider, head coach of the Wheaton College Thunder Football team, “I can see why there are so many concussions today. It’s because of good helmets and bigger stronger, faster players–it’s totally inevitable.” He goes on to say, “The better you make the helmet, the more emboldened you make the athlete.”
Then are helmets the problem? Wheaton’s Head Athletic Trainer, Greg Evans doesn’t think so. “I think as much technology as possible is going into helmets and there’s only so much helmets can do. No matter what helmet is out there, you can cushion the blow as much as possible but it really is just decelerating the brain from hitting (the skull). I can’t think of anything that’s totally going to prevent that.”
With all this being done to prevent traumatic head injuries in football, it’s hard to imagine what else can be done. The combination of superior athletes and protective gear has created a game that’s defined by hard hits and pressing blows. It’s not as if head injuries are the only prone to football players; concussions are found in plenty of other sports including soccer and wrestling. Coach Swider states, “It’s a problem. And it’s a frustrating problem not just for football. The soccer coaches will say it, the basketball coaches say it, the wrestling coaches- they’ve all lost players. Every sport has lost players within a year.”
Still, good coaching, proper sports gear, and knowledge of potential threats are what prevent more head injuries from happening. For more information check out usafootball.com/headsup, a site devoted to supplying young athletes with information on health and safety in sports.