In fact, the sport is largely comprised of and designed around the act of violence, with men of all different shapes and sizes throwing each other around with no regard for physical well-being. However this is where the interest of health and popular appeal contradict each other. While no one player has the intention to hurt another player, the game thrives on its violent nature. For example, if one were to go to a game and only listen, they would hear the crowd become its loudest at two moments during competition.
First, more obviously, is when the home team scores points, however second is when one player delivers a blow to another in such a fashion to jar the player off the ground and dismantle him in to the grass. However is that not the American way? Is the wish to see competitive violence not built into every American? Now of course the players know what they’re getting in to. No player will step out on to the grid iron without having passed the rigorous training as to the tradition of football. They know that injury most likely will happen to almost everyone that plays the game.
This in turn, makes the players wear that “tough guy” attitude in which they train themselves that no matter how hurt they are; they will always fight on. Of course, not every player can play through an injury. If one were to break his leg they would obviously not be able to perform at the level needed to participate, compared to a player that bruised or pulled a muscle and could play through injury. This attitude has settled in with the game for as long as it has been played, that if a player thinks they can play through injury, they will attempt to do so.
However, new medical technology has discovered a silent killer to player health, one they might not even be aware of, concussions. Unlike any other physical injury the concussion is one that is much harder to test for damage, thus players can say they are fine, despite not actually being in good health to perform. To retain the “tough guy” attitude players will lie about their health saying it was just a ding, and thus putting themselves at risk for a larger, more severe head injury.
On the medical side, trainers have not been properly educated in head injuries; the old technique of asking “how many fingers am I holding up” is not going to cut it anymore. (George) As the N. F. L. grows bigger, faster, and stronger with its most modern version of the game these concussions are growing at a more alarming rate. Additional medical research has been done with retired players discovering the impact these brain injuries have after a player’s career in the sport. Recently two players, former Philadelphia Eagle Andre Waters and Pittsburg Steeler Mike Webster, have committed suicide after their playing days.
They provide substantial evidence in looking in to the after effects of a concussion. After his suicide in 2006 Water’s brain was examined by Dr. Julian Bailes, of West Virginia University. Water’s brain was found to look like that of an eighty-five year old man despite being only forty-four. While Bailes would not automatically relate the two factors he would go as far to say that, “These are the cases we are working so hard to prevent. Because we are still learning so much about brain functions, it is fair to say that their cases were not the total result of concussions.
We have made more strides in concussion knowledge and treatment in the last 10 years than we had in all the history before that. ” (George) This puts the league at a cross roads, to change its ways for safety of its players, or not to change and up hold its same iconic status. Early actions by the league have shown to be those of increasing player safety, despite the fact that they are not sitting well with players and fans alike. In 2007, the league policy was that a player could not return to play or practice after losing consciousness unless he passes a neurological test. Associated Press, ESPN. ) However, with much grey area as to what defined a neurological test, the league updated and innovated its policy during and after the 2010 season. The new policy reads, “Once removed for the duration of a practice or game, the player should not be considered for return-to-football activities until he is fully asymptomatic, both at rest and after exertion, has a normal neurological examination, normal neuropsychological testing and has been cleared to return by both his team physician(s) and the independent neurological consultant,” (Associated Press, ESPN. While issuing new safety for returning to the field of play after the brain injury, the league is attempting to take it one step further, to stop it from happening in the first place, and this is where the real controversy begins. The league has begun to fine players large amounts of money if and when they deliver blows in a game that are considered unnecessary violent, changing the shape of the game itself. For example, Pittsburg linebacker James Harrison was fined a total of $75,000 for two hits he made in one game against the Cleveland Browns.
He saw these fines as restrictions to the game that he had always played, and a movement of changing how to play football. That is why in the week after receiving these fines he contemplated retirement from football as a whole because it was no longer the same game. (Gregory) And to an extent the financial fines have worked to reduce the number of high impact hits in the league. In fact one could go as far as to say that players will shy away from making certain plays and tackles as to avoid a fine by the league. While the league has stopped, for now, with its actions there is no shortage of ideas that fill N.
F. L. meeting rooms nationwide about how to fix the game. These ideas have varied from simple to complex changes in the game. Education of the injury is one very common solution, to let players know what it is that a concussion can and will do to them. This not only takes place at the professional level, but of those in the youth. Joe Browne, a senior adviser to National Football League Commissioner Rodger Goodell recently stated that the league has to expand its knowledge to youth football by saying, “We’re fortunate that we have more than 3. million young athletes playing football, and we want to continue to keep our player source strong and keep it large… the NFL, like any league, is always looking to protect the image of the game but it’s also a lot more than that. They’re also protecting their product. ” (Frommer) Never the less, more drastic measures have been offered as to fixing this issue. One idea is to follow a similar sport, rugby. While rugby is an equally physical sport in its nature, the players do not where helmets or protective head gear.
One may think that removing safety devices would do anything but help the issue, however the argument is that with nothing protecting the players they would be less likely to launch themselves and use their heads to inflict damage. So the issue stands as it is; how to protect player health regarding the issue of concussions, while not damaging the culture of the game itself. If the league were to do nothing toward this issue they would continue to grow as a financial power, and be as popular as any form of entertainment out there.
However, it is their responsibility to do something, based on the mounting evidence of the effects of how damaging these concussions are to their players. So the question is not if we can do anything about fixing concussions, because medically we can. The issue is how to make a safer game, while not tarnishing the traditions of it, and its popularity to citizen’s worldwide. Going forward the league will have to attempt not to break tradition, but to make it better, wiser, and safer for all those involved, and still not lose its impact and trademark as a culture icon.