Concussions somehow on the rise


While watching the NFL this past weekend, the thing that stood out to me more than anything was the number of concussions that popped up in the injury reports. Between players exiting games, players being ruled out prior to kickoff, the number of concussions were staggering.

Last year it was reported that regular season concussions in the NFL rose by 18 percent and the number was expected to rise this go-around, which through two weeks seems to absolutely be trending in that direction. Now that concussions are on the forefront of everyone’s mind in the NFL, and all contact sports from the youth level on up, it is an obvious correlation that is occurring.

The question that has to be asked at this point is: How can we continue playing football when the numbers are on such a sharp incline? These teams are beginning to scramble each week keeping up with their injury reports and in the middle of games have to get creative as players exit. Safety should be first so of course, it is encouraging that the NFL is enforcing strict policies regarding head injuries, but there has to be a way to clean it up.

Over the past decade, there have been developments regarding helmets and other equipment while the league has also begun enforcing stricter rules in terms of head-to-head contact penalties as well as screening for concussions. On the surface that seems like plenty, it seems like all the options have been exhausted, but I just refuse to believe it.

Football is football, players will always endure head trauma and unless we make it a non-contact sport, the problem will always exist. That said, how have we not perfected a helmet that significantly decreases head injuries? How have we not cracked down on head hunting penalties to the point that players have no choice but aim for the waist?

What I respect so much about youth football is their emphasis on the fundamentals and one of those fundamentals is the proper way to tackle the ball carrier. Lower your shoulder into their waist, wrap them up tight, then drag or drive them to the ground.

Does that prevent the head from hitting the ground or the occasional accidental head butt? Of course not, but to see players get so far away from these basics as they rise the ranks is infuriating. These players want the flashy collision which is more entertaining, but is far more dangerous and less effective.

I’m a realist, I know that there are plenty of people out there who devote their lives to this very issue and if there was a full proof plan then it would be put to use. I am just questioning the hold up. I am questioning why after all of these years we still do not have a system or product in place to stymie the surge in head injuries. Again, concussions are reported now more than ever, they are no longer just considered stingers. I’m all for increasing safety, so that is why I am frustrated and perplexed as to why we have not done so in an effective manner.

So far this young fall season, we have had a number of our soccer teams finish games with tied scores. At the high school level, teams earn three points for a win and one point for a tie. In the regular season there is no overtime. The score at the end of regulation is what it is.

I have never understood why shootouts are reserved for the postseason and why overtime periods are played at all. Shootouts provide some of the most thrilling moments in sports and should be embraced. They should not be considered a last resort in determining the outcome.

At the end of regulation, cut to the chase and go right to a shootout. This should be done for soccer, field hockey, ice hockey, even lacrosse. Shootouts are the way to go. They are fast, efficient and exciting. What else could you want as a fan?

I am not anti-tie to be honest with you. I don’t hate seeing regular season games come to a close at the end of regulation, especially in a game like soccer when the periods are long and tiresome. I get why making the kids carry on is not ideal.

However, how much more exhausted would kids be in a shootout? Not much, if at all. Sometimes they are completed in two minutes flat.

As for standard overtime period, I hate them, to be frank. The reason why games advance to overtime is because the two teams have been battling neck and neck and are struggling to gain an advantage. Most of the time this continues deep into the period and there does come a point where the excitement wears off. There comes a point where the writing is on the wall and it feels like we’re not getting anywhere.

Shootouts, shootouts, shootouts. I am pounding the table for shootouts.

pitch, concussions, sports column


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