Are the NFL “Concussion Rules” Ruining the Game?

By Elad De Piccioto
 Pixabay /KeithJJ
Every football fan will tell you that football is an intense and violent game. It turns out that the violence we see has a price – and it`s not cheap. The question then becomes, is the violence a price that we and, perhaps more importantly, the players, are willing to pay?
Apparently, the frequent head blows and concussions that happen in football are probably the cause of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease. CTE can cause long-term debilitating symptoms, including depression, memory loss, and even dementia; it has also already led a player to commit suicide.
As a result, in 2009, the NFL put in action the “NFL GameDay Concussion Protocol”. The protocol specifies a list of symptoms for detecting concussions and offers guidelines for sideline evaluation.  If a player is diagnosed with a concussion, he is removed immediately from the pitch, and cannot return to play until he is fully recovered. The latest addition to the protocol is the 2016 “introduction of disciplinary action” for teams that do not properly adhere to it.
The concussion protocol has suffered widespread criticism by both fans and players, who suggest the new regulations are ruining the game. Here are 3 claims for the protocol, and 3 claims against it.


3 reasons why we should embrace the concussion protocol:


The game will be changed, but for the better. 
Like everything in our lives, football also experiences changes. Not all changes are for the worse. Look at what happened in the NBA: The rules changed and the game got “softer” but also faster, and players’ skills grew wider. The same goes for football: With less violent tackles player`s skills will develop gradually. The game will probably become faster.  A new form of player will evolve, possibly a hybrid type of player that is quicker, faster and smarter. If football would change in this way, would you really stop watching it?


There is more to football than violent crushes!
Let’s do a little exercise: You`re at work, having a nice conversation with your pal over last night`s game. Then this guy says something like, “football is a violent sport…” My guess is that you`d probably explain that football is much morethan that – it’s about strategy, athleticism, teamwork and more. Well, guess what? These aspects are going to remain part of the game even when there will no longer be helmet-to-helmet crushes. Saying that the new protocols, which can save lives (!!), are ruining the game is actually minimizing the essence of game you love so much.


The new rules help to protect football`s integrity. Yes, that’s right: football will be fairer now.
Sports are about giving your best in every single moment. When a player suffers a concussion, he is not playing his best. His cognitive reasoning and functionality decreases; he is having problems processing information and concentrating.  The new baseline cognitive test helps to ensure that all the players on the football field can actually play their best. Isn’t that what football is all about?


3 reasons why we should reject the concussion protocol:


Players now go to the legs more, causing more injuries than ever.
With new regulations defensive players now go lower to avoid drawing penalties, fines, and suspensions. This new tendencyhas already caused some horrific leg injuries, like those of Miami Dolphins’ tight end Dustin Keller, or of New England’s Rob Gronkowski.  Most players actually prefer head injuries over leg injuries: “That’s tough to deal with (concussions), you may miss a game or two… But you still get to go home, walk home to your family” (Dustin Keller, Miami Dolphins tight end). Moreover, Washington’s Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather, Cleveland’s Donte Whitner, and Tennessee’s Michael Griffintold ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that offensive players are actually asking defensive players to be hit high rather than low. Yes, exactly, the situation in the NFL has become absurd


There is no changing football.
Violent collisions, including ones that cause concussions, are an inseparable part of football. Violence has always been a part of the NFL and that’s not going to change, regardless of the rules, fines or suspensions that the league is going to set.  Check out what Miami Dolphins’ linebacker Channing Crowder said to “If I get a chance to knock somebody out, I’m going to knock them out and take what they give me…” And he is not the only one taking this kind of attitude, which is not surprising. The defensive players in football have been trained all of their lives to tackle and to tackle hard. This attitude is what has made them who they are.


The new protocol can backfire, risking players’ careers. 
Disqualification due to a concussion can damage players’ careers, not just their lives. A bad concussion protocol (a long record of concussions, with substantial time that the player has been ruled out from the field) means a threat to a player’s career. Thus, the players, who have dedicated their entire lives to the game, will do anything to stay out of the concussion protocol, including lying to their doctors. The new protocols have inadvertently caused players to lie about their concussion symptoms, potentially exposing themselves to greater damage.


The bottom line: The “NFL GameDay Concussion Protocol” is designed to make the game safer for players but it has the potential to backfire and expose the players to greater head damage. What do you think ? How do you like you game?


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