This Is an Inflexion Point in the Concussion Crisis

A week from tonight, Frontline will run its expose on the NFL and what it knew about concussions as its players were enduring severe head injuries over the last few decades.

It would be tempting to say we have moved past the crisis with the NFL settlement and countless measures put in place to prevent and lessen the severity of concussions. But have we?

Not a chance.  The fact of the matter is that the NFL clubs, the colleges and the high schools are still making mistakes and taking unnecessary risks. This comes primarily in the form of putting players back in before their brains have healed.

The second part of a three-part article will run in the October issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter later today, which deals with the “Reclassification of Football.” Written by Dr. Andrew Blecher, a passage in this article is highly provocative as it talks about one of the next steps that can be taken in the concussion crisis:

“The helmet must be redesigned so that it cannot be used as a weapon. The helmet’s sole purpose is to prevent skull fractures. Unfortunately its design has developed such that it is now the player’s hardest shell on his body and thus his best tool to tackle or block another player. It is used as a weapon because of its design. This is simple instinct. This must be eliminated. It cannot be simply “coached away” with a heads up tackling campaign. Helmet redesign must go along with the rule and coaching changes. The facemask must also be redesigned so as not to encourage leading or blocking with the face. The athlete must have absolutely no incentive to use the head to initiate contact.  In fact, the helmet /facemask unit must be redesigned to create a disincentive to use it to initiate contact.  Instead of making helmets that are “more comfortable to hit with,” we need to do the opposite. These changes may be costly and they may be unpopular but this evolution needs to happen until such time that we can prove that tackle football is safe and is no longer a research study on long term head trauma.”

This is just one example of a step that can be taken. There are others. In short, this is just the beginning in the evolution of football. It certainly cannot and should not be the end.


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