We are in the throes of football season, and one new feature of what we see weekly whether in college or Pro football is— ‘the concussion protocol’. While I would say this is a good thing in itself, if we were really serious about taking serious the data surfaced by the movie ‘Concussion’ and many medical studies, if concern for the health of the player was paramount, not secondary to all else that happens on the playing field, then it is time to stop the madness by one simple change—- take away the helmets. Simply take them away, and make the game more like rugby in all its various forms. O.K., if you insist, you can go back to the original leather head gear. Make tackling rather than hitting, spearing etc. with the helmet the task of defensive players. Here’s the thing– football today is more dangerous than ever, due to the speed and strength of the players. There are many more accidental or intentional head butts, spearing instances, head to head collisions than ever before, and no amount of penalties is going to stop that. What will stop it, is if the helmet is removed as a weapon, because make no mistake, it is being used that way. Just imagine if they wore helmets like the ancient Greeks with a metal scythe on the top— imagine the cuts from that. The helmet is a big part of the current problem, and it is time for ESPN, and all the other sports networks to get in line with what doctors have been rightly telling us for some time, and eliminate the temptation to play ‘hit’ and ‘spear’ football rather than tackle football. If a defensive player knows his bare noggin is hanging out, and he doesn’t want to break his neck, he knows that he will have to start using his head, rather than using his head as a weapon, and tackle people properly. Look at the mass casualty report each week on the sports news, otherwise known as the injury report. Many of those injuries are caused by helmets, not just concussions. If you want to see your best players play more, if you don’t want exciting rookies like Carson Wentz to become Carson Wince, then its time to seriously do the right thing— and eliminate metal helmets. Period. Yes, I know the helmet provides a little protection, but not nearly as much as it provides a temptation to do damage. Yes, I know you have to go back to hand signals and signs, not little voices in the quarterback’s helmet. Big deal. That’s the way it always used to be done, without a problem.
Having taken the time to watch a good deal of rugby, I can tell you, its just as exciting as helmeted American football in many ways (except it needs the forward pass and catch), indeed its more exciting because you see the best players longer and more often because tackling is the name of the game, not hitting. So come on folks— lets not have any more Mike Webster stories, any more concussion movies. Come on Roger Goddell— really do something to protect your players. It’s high time. Using metal helmets is not using your head, if safety is a concern.