IS FOOTBALL DOOMED?
A cranky opinion for
CRANKY OPINION SATURDAY
The following is the opinion of a cranky old man with limited knowledge in the subject opined. Opposing opinions are welcome. They are welcome but they will be ignored, and as always, please no name calling; that means you, Butthead!
Football is a rough sport. Injuries are common. In the past the most common problem was knee injuries. Knee injuries ended many careers or resulted in problems down the line for ex-players. Rule changes, better equipment and improved surgical procedures greatly reduced knee injuries. Artificial joint surgery has lessened the problems of ex-players. Today the big problem with football is head injuries and concussions.
Concussions never used to be a big problem. I played high school football. My three sons played high school football (one has a year to go) and one son played division III in college. Concussions were not a big issue for me or my sons. What has changed?
First of all there were concussions, but they were just not as common, and the long term problems from a concussion were not recognized. Players who were knocked dizzy shook off the cob webs, sniffed some smelling salts and went back in to play. One of my sons played a full fourth quarter without remembering any of it. Concussions were not a problem because they often did not affect players until years later and their issues were not traced back to previous football injuries.
In my opinion there are other changes in football that make concussions far more common than in the past.
First, players are bigger and faster. Fifty years ago, I played tackle in high school. I weighed 170 pounds. Today the average high school tackle probably weighs 230 pounds, and they are as fast if not faster than I was at 170 pounds.
Bigger faster players cause greater head trauma. Knockouts by boxers in the heavyweight division are common. They are relatively rare in the flyweight division. The larger the body is, the bigger the blow, but larger bodies are not able to absorb greater force to the head. The brain is just as vulnerable for a 300 pound player as it is for a 150 pound player.
Second, the forward pass creates more dangerous situations. Years ago, high school football was a 90 percent run game. Now it is more 50 percent run, 50 percent pass. Pass plays create more situations of players running full speed in opposite directions diving and leading with their head in an attempt to catch the ball, or knock it loose.
Larger, faster players, and more passing, equal more head trauma in football.
What is the solution? Better headgear may just make for more fearlessness in hitting with the helmet. Rule changes should reduce hitting with the helmet, but it will take much time for the culture to change. Some coaches still teach tackling by driving the helmet into the runner’s chest.
I think this concussion issue will ultimately put an end to football as we know it. Players and their parents will be less willing to accept the risk of concussion damage, and law suits will make the game too expensive and financially risky for schools at all levels to continue the sport.
I believe that tackle football will give way to flag football.
Flag football replaces tackling a player with grabbing a flag from his waist. The emphasis in flag football is less on size and strength and more on speed and agility. There are no helmets in flag football, no shoulder pads or hip pads. The lack of protective gear actually reduces dangerous hits as players are less reckless and it makes the game safer from major injuries. Passing, catching, running and blocking are still prominent, dangerous hits are not.
It may take a while for the culture to change, but tackle football as we know it today is ultimately doomed. I will miss the traditional game. I will not miss the long term debilitating injuries that are now so common.
Flag football is almost the same game, just less violent. It is exciting, and it is much safer.
The preceding was the opinion of a cranky old man and not necessarily that of management…Mrs. Cranky.