update and link. 01.29.2015 reader eskyman sent this link in w/ a comment, and after reading it, i think that it should be in this post. so, it's gonna be. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/01/09/concussion-epidemic-should-helmets-be-banned-from-football/ . it raises an important issue, and, quite obviously i agree w/ the premise in the article that the modern helmet causes brain and head injury. i am not sure that i agree that such can be remedied as proposed in the article. but, it is a good start on the discussion. end update and link.
it appears increasingly obvious that concussion suffered in playing the game of american football contributes to long term brain injury. studies of physical trauma indicate that even children playing pee wee football can generate sufficient energy during collisions on the field to cause brain injury.
i loved the game, and played it in high school, though i wasn't particularly gifted. but, as i reflect upon playing, i have to acknowledge that my enjoyment of it was diminished by injury, and that i became adverse to the thing i enjoyed the most, and that was tackling an opposing ball carrier.
i will come back to this.--
but, the following are changes i believe necessary to preserve the game in some form, before it is banned for public health reasons.
1.)do away with the modern football helmet and face guards entirely, and if helmets are to be allowed, return to the old leather helmets of the 1920's and 1930's, (which my grade school teams used);
2.)do away with modern shoulder pads, and allow only the use of rudimentary pads upon the shoulders and knees;
3.)mandate that the game be played on natural gas fields, which meet certain specifications for soil composition and length of grass; and,
4.)do away with football shoes equipped w/ traction cleats, and mandate that football shoes have flat cushioned soles.
i make these suggestions because football equipment and uniforms as now used have allowed the body so clad to be used as a weapon to deliver blows of tremendous energy to the adversary, to the extent that debilitating and crippling injury are inherent in the game, and unavoidable.
this may seem a bit contradictory reason, sense, and analysis, but i think upon examination my contentions, & resultant suggestions, hold up. but, aren't these items of equipment (which i propose to eliminate) designed to prevent injury?
but, think for a moment, about what the equipment allows, and gives the player the capability to do.
the modern plastic/polymer/glass fiber helmet, purportedly designed to prevent blows to the head of the wearer, paradoxically allows the wearer to deliver very heavy amounts of physical energy and violent shock loads to the head and brain case of other players. ever though "spearing" another player in the head is outlawed, it still occurs even if inadvertent, and still occurs if the helmet's blow is delivered to the chest of the opposing player.
the same goes as to shoulder pads. even though the should pad may protect the shoulder girdle of the wearer, they still allow the wearer to deliver very heavy compression loads to opposing players. and, these physical loads are transmitted to the head and shoulders of others.
we now know inertia dictates that when the head is struck violently, or other parts of the body are struck such as to put the head into violent motion, that the brain is moved back and forth violently inside the skull, such as to cause compression injury and lesions and the like. the trauma caused by such motion are exactly that, ... , trauma, and that the evidence suggests very strongly by anecdote, statistical analysis and post mortem examination that the injury is persistent, cumulative and chronic: it does not get better, it debilitates, and can lead to early death.
it seems to me undeniable that such injury/injuries are coincidental & coincident w/ the advent of modern helmets.
why is this so? well, the helmet does protect the wearer, and it protects the wearer to a sufficient degree that he may survive a violent collision on the football field without obvious trauma or injury to his own head. this encourages the player to use the helmet and the shoulder pads to inflict very violent blows.
my suggestion is to eliminate this, by making such blows very painful, and inflicting damage to the nose, lips, teeth and face to any player who would use his head as a weapon. if the head is use to butt another player in the face, or if the nose is broken making a tackle, or if a player is struck in the face by a fist for dirty play, this will soon enough be a contributing factor towards taking the head out of the game as a battering ram, or a spear.
take the head as a weapon, and the helmet shielding it from injury, out of the game as a weapon. and, the only way i can see this occurring, is by making the use of the head immediately very painful.
in short, take the game back to the "old days," when bloody lips and broken noses were prevalent, but when concussion and traumatic long term brain injury were not.
take artificial turf and concrete fields out of the game, and make the ground back into a natural cushion, instead of making contact with the ground a source of injury.
and, finally, take some of the speed out of the game, and some of the size out of the players. players now run and maneuver on surfaces more like that of a modern track, and all of this increases the kinetic load of impact between players.
i don't want to see football replaced by rugby, even though rugby is a noble sport. the game of football is a better game i think, having tactical and strategic elements which make it a superior game. but, i don't think the game as presently constituted will long survive the onslaught of its critics, as the equipment used by players will be shown to cause the injuries claimed by those critics. it seems to me, that they are right. and, that too many who have played the game, and who have suffered concussive injuries doing so, are living debilitated and diminished lives, or suffering grievous incapacitation & early death, are doing so because of injuries caused by playing the game.
i was a natural tackler in a leather helmet, and adept at tackling without ringing my own bell. when i made the move to the (hard, plastic) rydell helmet popular in my area, my skills at tackling disappeared, and i took to lowering my head and closing my eyes in anticipation of contact, ... , that doesn't lead to success on the field. the old leather helmets w/ no face guards were at least comfortable, whereas the hard plastic helmets road on a stiff suspension webbing, which hurt me, and caused the force of a blow to be delivered to the back of my head. it was very unpleasant, i didn't like it, and i avoided it.
pictures taken by morris berman of the pittsburg post gazette, sept. 20, 1964 just after tittle was tackled, cracking his sternum and giving him a concussion. the injuries destroyed his career. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y._A._Tittle
i am not suggesting we make the game one for sissies. i like a good bloody nose, and split lips, and loose teeth as much as the next person, participant or spectator. and, perhaps we cannot entirely eliminate the risk of such injury to strong men who enter into physical battle on the playing fields, ... , i think now of the famous picture of y.a. tittle, as he sat crumpled on the ground, helmet off, blood dripping from his head from the tackle that put him from the game. he was wearing equipment much as i propose. but, do we have to suffer a game that renders so many destroyed by brain injury.
john jay @ 01.29.2015
p.s. yelberton abraham "y.a." tittle is probably my all-time favorite football player. a warrior. he did not avoid the consequences of his many battles. he is incapacitated.