By JD McKay
When people like my dad thought of football in the early 1990s, they thought of the players. Players like Steve Young, Dan Marino, Steve Atwater, Jerry Rice, and Deion Sanders. Now, people think of players when they think of football, but not the players that I will tell my kids I saw play like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but players like Junior Seau, retired players with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
Football is associated with injuries, specifically concussions. It is viewed as a sport where players knock heads every play, jog over to the sideline woozy and confused, are looked at for all of 10 seconds, and sent back onto the field, just to get another concussion. But football has changed a lot since concussions and CTE have been linked and diagnosed. In the last 10 years, the game has been made safer.
The NFL has added rules to increase safety, and since then, college and high school levels soon followed. One of the major additions to the rule book was targeting. Targeting is when a defensive player makes a tackle with the crown of his helmet. Another change was that defensive players can no longer hit receivers in the head and neck area immediately after catching a pass. But the biggest changes happened this offseason. The NFL introduced the use of helmet rule. This says a player cannot lower his head to make contact with a player anywhere on his body, and the rule now includes running backs being called for head-to-head contact.Players can be ejected for these fouls.
Another change in safety is how players tackle. FC has gone to the Heads Up Tackling method, used by the Seattle Seahawks and Ohio State Buckeyes. The idea is that the head does not need to be used at all, using the shoulder to hit the running back in the hips, with his head out of the tackle. Then wrapping and rolling.
Another part of safety in the game is helmets. In 2011, Virginia Tech began creating a helmet safety rating test, evaluating a variety of helmets. The goal is for helmets to have five stars and a low score. The helmets FC wears are ranked sixth out of 16 and scored a 4.49. It was also the third cheapest of the helmets in the top 6.
Today’s game is not the same as it was 20 or 30 years ago. The equipment is safer, rules have been improved, and tackling has changed. Head injuries can happen anywhere, playing soccer, slipping in the shower, or falling out of bed. So next time you think of football, do not think of the potential for head injuries, think of the legendary players on the field today.