NFL Football could take a few simple actions to reduce head injuries instead of stifling ESPN's journalism on the subject. PHOTO: Mike Morbeck, CC License
The NFL pressured ESPN out of its association with a Frontline report on concussions and other head-trauma injuries that football players regularly sustain. The cat is out of the bag on this one: everyone knows that football is a brutal sport that leaves many of its players permanently damaged. Eventually the NFL is going to have to do more than just use its financial clout to cover up its problems, it will have to deal with this issue at the root.
To help them along, here are 5 steps the NFL could take to deal with its concussion problem that would be far better than blocking ESPN from exposing the issue:
1. Actually deal with the PED issue
While baseball boils into a scandal any time a star player is exposed for taking performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), but in the NFL, it’s assumed that everyone is doing it. Linebackers weigh 300 pounds and are faster than all of your non-track star friends. Yes, natural gifts combined with disciplined training can produce these results, but why not take some chemicals that everyone else is using anyway, especially if millions of dollars lie just on the other side of that dose. Having players that don’t have the frame and the engine of a truck would be a good start.
2. Slim down the equipment
This is more controversial, but one reason that players can ram into each other again and again is because their helmets and pads blunt the direct impact. Slimmer (or softer?) equipment would reduce the physical capacity for players to lunge into each other head-first.
3. Make/enforce rules against head to head contact
The NFL has rules about head to head contact, but they are either not comprehensive enough or not enforced well enough. NFL referees generally do an excellent job, so my money is on more stringent rules needed. If you think that football is too fast-paced to avoid that sort of thing, just know that football is already the most regimented sport we have. Offensive lineman may not flinch once they are set, or their team gets a 5 yard “false start” penalty. They can learn to avoid certain types of more detrimental contact.
These ideas are a start, but they are only that. The NFL players, coaches and fans probably have more and better ideas. This should be an open discussion, but for that to happen we need the NFL to admit it has a problem with head injuries, and not stifle journalism by ESPN or anyone else that is shedding light.