Is NFL’s Concussion Problem Getting Any Better?

The NFL has a concussion problem and a public relations mess on their hands. Players are not only getting injured, but they are also suffering lifelong debilitating complications directly related to playing football.

Head injuries, often called getting your bell rung, can result in immediate symptoms such as pain and headaches. These can develop into further symptoms such as dizziness, memory loss, confusion, hearing and vision complications, mood swings, and memory problems.
Repeated concussions and blows to the head can cause a degenerative disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. While one can suspect this disease is present, it cannot be diagnosed until after death.

The Discovery of CTE

Boston University conducted research on 111 former NFL football players. Those players and/or their families volunteered to have their brains studied after death in order to determine the frequency of CTE.

Researchers detected CTE in 110 of the 111 brains studied. The conclusion was incontrovertible: Football players suffered brain disease and injury at a far greater rate than the general public. Repeated blows to the head and concussions have long-term effects. Football is a dangerous sport and concussions are a problem that needs to be addressed.

Parents Are Afraid

Parents are steering their children away from football to pursue safer sports such as soccer and baseball. The truth is, you can get hurt doing anything, but football is violent by design. There is physical contact on every play and tackling is a regular part of the game. Parents have to juggle keeping their children safe while also maintaining their interest in sports.

As it is, 70 percent of children give up their chosen sport by age 13. They discover the opposite sex, get busier in school and pursue other interests. Being in sports teaches them many life lessons, keeps them physically active and potentially keeps them out of trouble.

Parents don't want to deny their children access to sports and all the opportunities that come with them, but more parents are discouraging their children from playing football. The NFL knows it has to make changes.

The NFL Makes a Change

The NFL has tried over the years to make football safer while still preserving the excitement and integrity of the game. It's made rules limiting the way players can tackle and hit, and has also limited helmet-to-helmet contact.

In an owners' meeting in March, the NFL made new rules regarding helmet-to-helmet contact. It is similar to the NCAA's targeting rule, but more extensive. The goal is to keep players from using their helmet as a weapon and to reduce the number of concussions suffered through the season.

Under the new rules, any player who lowers his helmet to make contact with another player will incur a 15-yard penalty and potentially be ejected from the game. This new rule applies to everyone: tacklers, linemen, and ball carriers. Previous rules only addressed contact within the crown of an opponent's helmet.

Next Year Will Be Telling

In the 2017-2018 season, there were 291 reported concussions and one severe spinal injury. Most of the plays where these injuries occurred would have fallen under the scope of the new NFL rules regarding contact.

We will have to wait until the end of next season to see if these changes reduce the number of concussions and keep NFL players safer from harm. Parents will be watching.

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