Don't let vicious play tarnish the Super Bowl
The NFL's regular season ends this weekend and the playoffs to determine the Super Bowl matchup come next. Pro football, as well as hockey's NHL, must further reduce head injuries and provide a better example for young athletes on how to avoid concussions.
The sports cliché about two opponents going “head to head” has lately taken on a new and troubling meaning.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Head injuries to some big stars in professional sports have put a spotlight on the need for more safety in knock-’em-sock-’em team sports. Football and hockey, in particular, with their fans demanding action and thrills, are prone to violence.
As the National Football League (NFL) heads toward the Super Bowl and college football finishes up its bowl games, many more millions will watch in glorious high definition as helmets crack, bodies fly, and stretchers come on the field.
Meanwhile, the National Hockey League (NHL) will offer a special event – its Winter Classic played on an outdoor rink (weather permitting), featuring arch-rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. If it’s anything like a typical regular-season game, several players may need tending to during or after the game by the trainer.
Individual players have been reluctant to lead the call to prevent head injuries, lest they be viewed as, well, wimps. But this year NFL stars such as quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, and Jay Cutler, and receiver DeSean Jackson have missed games with concussions. The league averages one or two concussions for every game it plays. Reported concussions this year are up 20 percent over 2009, according to NFL data.
Some of this dramatic increase may be due to better reporting. Both the league’s owners and the players’ union have begun paying attention. Injured superstars on the sidelines, they realize, aren’t good for business. The league has prominently stepped up penalties for helmet-to-helmet hits, including fines and suspensions.
Of course concussions happen across sports. In baseball, the Minnesota Twins’ all-star first baseman Justin Morneau suffered a concussion in July and was sidelined for the rest of the season. Pro soccer star Taylor Twellman of the New England Revolution retired at age of 30 because of the effects of a concussion.
In the NFL, injuries have even become an issue in the dispute over a new contract between the league and its players. Owners want to increase the season from 16 to 18 games by converting two of four preseason contests. The players’ union estimates that would mean thousands of additional plays – and a commensurate increase in injuries.