Abigail Hubbard, Copy Editor |
I, like many avid football fans, am excited to spend my Sunday afternoons sitting on the couch and cheering on my favorite team now that the NFL season has started. I am not excited to hear about the concussions and head injuries that are sure to occur. Football is widely known as a contact sport. Collisions are bound to happen on the field as most of the positions involve some kind of forceful contact, and it is not always easy for players to circumvent the occasional mishap. If their timing is even one second off, players can be involved in helmet-to-helmet collisions, helmet-to-shoulder collisions or even head-to-ground collisions. While concussions are a problem in every contact sport, football is the one with equipment specially designed to prevent such injuries. Despite this equipment, the number of concussions and head injuries in football is alarmingly high every season.
Helmet safety needs to be held to higher standards in the NFL. They have made some strides in regard to helmet testing, but it was only when brain trauma became more common in football players that people started paying more attention to the equipment. The NFL and the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) just recently partnered with laboratories to begin testing various helmet brands to determine which are safe and which are not. Players are only allowed to choose brands that are within the first two categories of this ranking system. Anything below that is deemed unsafe and players are not allowed to wear them. This testing, however, only accounts for helmet-to-helmet collisions. Testing needs to become more inclusive of the numerous ways that head injuries can occur in order for it to be effective in preventing concussions or head injuries that can cause problems for players later in life.
Brain trauma is a serious risk for players who frequently suffer from concussions or forceful blows to the head. They can develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease, from constant brain trauma. Players who get concussions once are more likely to get them again throughout their life. Knowing this, I am baffled by the fact that the NFL does not put more resources into helmet testing to prevent as many concussions as they can.
The NFL needs to step up its game when dealing with player safety. Helmets are one of the most important pieces of a football player’s equipment, yet they aren’t tested as much as they should be. The NFL has a fairly solid concussion protocol set in place, but this protocol only helps after a concussion has occurred. A good concussion protocol is one that offers a way to prevent such injuries. It seems like they put more effort into fixing problems than they do into ensuring that the problems don’t occur in the first place.
While I have been focusing on the NFL, they are not the only organization that needs to be concerned with head injuries. Football, soccer, rugby and even hockey organizations all need to take precautions from the professional leagues down to young children learning these sports for the first time. The NFL’s exposure and high status in the sports world, however, demands that they be a leading force in safety precautions, a position they are not fulfilling to the best extent possible. This is not to say that the NFL does not care at all about the welfare of the players, but they need to take more measures in order to ensure that the least possible number of head injuries take place. The safety of the players rests in the hands of the equipment that they wear. The NFL needs to make certain that it can protect them as much as possible. Hopefully, the 2020 season will see a decrease in the number of concussions and head injuries suffered by players.
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