The No Fun League


The National Football League, or more recently dubbed "The No-Fun League", has come under attack from both sides of the coin for their recent enhancement of penalties and fines for rough tackles and blows to the head.


On one side of the argument, former players and those affiliated with the sport are rallying for a safer game. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study of 3,400 retired players, which concluded that retired players have a higher-than-average risk of developing Alzheimer's. A huge problem in the sport is the development of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which is caused by repeated head trauma. Analysis of the late great San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau's brain revealed that he had CTE when he ended his own life not too long ago. CTE is onset in large part by helmet-to-helmet contact. The NFL implemented a controversial rule by a large majority (31-1), which prohibits offensive and defensive players from lowering the crown of their helmet outside of the tackle box. Here is a visual representation of the tackle box: 



Many players and fans have taken polarized stances on this new rule. Marshall Faulk, from the formally dominant "greatest show on turf" St. Louis Rams, says the new rule is stupid and endangers the ball carrier rather than helps.


"It's crazy. I think it's a stupid rule. It's all about suits -- suits run our game. And now it's on the zebras to make the call and make the call right. I'm just glad I don't have to play under this rule, because I'm not quite sure how I would protect myself at times. A lot of things sound good when you're just discussing it, but we're talking about a game that's played at a breakneck pace; officials have to make split-second decisions. 

Enforcement is the obvious concern, but I'm also thinking about the safety of players. When you run the football with your chin up in the air, you're going to get knocked out. Look at 
Stevan Ridley in the AFC Championship Game -- if he would've gotten low, I don't see him getting knocked out by Bernard Pollard on that game-changing play. I know this: If you face contact with your eyes up, you will get hurt. As a ball carrier, the only thing you can do to protect yourself sometimes is getting down, and that now can be taken as lowering your helmet and using it as a weapon. You take that away from a guy, and now you have to run up in there chin-first."


Marshall Faulk summarizes the views of many current players on the issue. Running backs simply cannot run head-up into traffic without greatly increasing their risk of serious injury. On the other side of the ball, many defensive players argue that it is becoming close to impossible to tackle a ball carrier without drawing a penalty and a hefty fine. The biggest problem with the new rules is that defensive players now have to tackle at the knees of the ball carrier. The effort to protect players from long-term head injury has brought on record-breaking numbers of ACL injuries. According to Kevin Seifert of ESPN, 30 players have been placed on injured reserve for ACL related injuries. The number is already greater than the total in 2011, and is on pace to break the 32 ACL injuries that occurred last season. He suggests that the increased number of injuries is a direct result of the movement to eliminate head-to-head contact.


Albert Breer from the NFL Network argues that the NFL had no choice but to implement the rule in the current state of the game. While he does state that it will be incredibly difficult for players to adjust to the new rule, and there will be an influx of backlash from players who are essentially paying a percentage of their salary simply to play the game, he makes a very pertinent point. The NFL is currently in the middle of a huge lawsuit in which 4,500 players were awarded $765 million as settlement for their concussion-related injuries that incurred while playing the sport.


The fact of the matter is, nobody really wins until the equipment players wear is safer. If there is no effort to stop helmet-to-helmet hits, then long-term injuries are prevalent and the NFL gets sued for millions. If the new rules stay in place, however, the rise of short-term injuries could potentially sideline key players for multiple weeks to a year. The only benefit to short term injuries is that players on contract will still get paid for the time they are injured. This is the only silver lining, though, because an ACL injury is still extremely painful and takes a lot of time and money to rehabilitate.



As a football fan, I constantly find myself watching the games on Sundays only to have frequent outbursts of "Ref let 'em play!" I believe that the new rules are ruining the sanctity of the sport; too many games are being decided by the officials rather than by the teams themselves. Football is a barbaric sport. The players know what they are signing up for when they choose to make their living playing football. Many may argue that NFL athletes are overpaid, but few consider the amount of physical trauma players experience and the number of years they take off of their life for our entertainment.


"Concussion" has become a buzzword in the sports world, with many people weighing in on the violent nature of American football. Commissioner Roger Goodell has implemented a $10 million incentive program to find more innovative ways to make the helmets players wear more shock-resistant. I feel as though this is the best way to make the sport safer without interfering with the rules that make the game what it is. What are your opinions on the safety of the sport? How can it be made safer without compromising the integrity of game? A good idea may just make you a ton of money.

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