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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 21, 2014

Are safety precautions ruining game of football?

By Allyus Fritz | Aug 15, 2013

When I was in eighth grade I split time between junior high baseball and a YMCA youth football league. I grew up in Quincy, Ill. In the great state of Illinois, junior high baseball is played in the fall and high school baseball in the spring. Everyday after school I would go to baseball practice and then get a ride across town to football practice with a friend.

My mindset had to completely change when I transferred on to the field with the hash marks from the field with the diamond. I’ll give you an example. That year I returned punts. My baseball game had just finished and my parents rushed me over to the YMCA so I could play football that night as well. I barely had any time to get ready before the game. It had already started when I arrived, and I immediately had to trot out to return a punt.

I caught the ball, ran to the right, evaded one tackler, and then was hammered by a defender. My head smacked off the turf and immediately started to throb. One of my coaches looked down at me and smiled.

“Welcome to the game Allyus.”

That was the last time I ever stepped onto the football field without being completely alert. Intensity is something players must have in order to protect themselves while on the field.

Now leagues are taking protection to all new heights. It certainly is the hot topic in football. Former professional players are suing the NFL left and right because they received head trauma during their playing days. Many of those players believe the NFL knew about the possible risks of football and withheld the information.

The very same intensity that each football player is baptized in is now leading to suspensions and serious injury in the game we love. The NFL is cracking down on dirty hits and helmet-to-helmet contact in order to prevent head trauma. Intensity cannot be taught, but the right way to tackle can be. Eliminating dirty hits is a giant step in the right direction, but how far is too far?

The game is simply too fast to think that helmet-to-helmet hits will simply disappear. NFL athletes are elite physical specimens. They have been training for most of their lives to get their bodies in outrageously fantastic shape so they can perform at the highest level possible. Because of this, collisions will occur. Injuries will occur. It simply cannot be avoided. There is no way they can be completely avoided.

I’m not saying that the new rules being implemented should be taken away. However, I do believe that this is as far as they need to go. How many more can be applied before the game as we know it ceases to exist?

There are now players being suspended for hits that, while being illegal, are completely unintentional. I don’t believe most fans realize how difficult tackling is in the first place. Making sure that each hit is legal so the team won’t get penalized has to be an incredibly difficult task all by itself.

Helping players help themselves is wonderful. Would I want someone I care about to play football and then suffer mental issues later in life because of brain injuries? Obviously I would never want that to happen. However, there is a certain point where no more safeguards can be taken without completely changing the sport.

Now the NFL has instituted a rule where running backs cannot charge at a defensive player with the crown of their helmets. Many former running backs including Emmitt Smith think that the new rule is ludicrous because now backs will be more vulnerable.

It’s also true that some individuals react differently than others. Some former NFL players have developed dementia, while others who played the same position for the same amount of years are completely healthy. No matter what precautions are taken, there are still individuals who will develop life-altering issues. The game at its core is too violent to completely repel injury.

People need to wake up and realize that the most popular sport in America is one of the most violent activities in the world. Each person that plays football needs to respect the game enough to know that injury is a possibility. Any man who walks on to the field thinking he’s superman needs to come down from his cloud.

Sports in general are dangerous. Brain trauma is also rampant in individuals that play hockey and soccer. Are there programs telling soccer players not to use their heads to hit the ball? Nope.

Each year more precautions are taken in the name of player health. High school teams practice less and less. Youth football leagues play fewer games. Full contact is prohibited for a certain number of practices. We are soon going to arrive at a point where nothing is allowed. When is the time going to come where football gets banned from schools? I wouldn’t scoff at the possibility. In my lifetime I sincerely believe that football could be completely banned from schools. The only reason why it wouldn’t is that it produces too much revenue.

The chips are going to fall where they may, regardless of how many precautions are taken to avoid injuries.

There is nothing wrong with safety, but a line has to be drawn somewhere.

 

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