For years, the NFL has downplayed the issue of the concussions its players suffer by merely adding stricter penalties.
These penalties apply to acts such as tackling other players by their heads, deliberate helmet to helmet contact and late hits on players after the play has well ended, but NFL fans across the U.S. are vocally opposing the rules because they significantly decrease the violence that makes it so popular.
But what really annoys NFL fans the most about the rules is that they favor offensive players. Defensive are even fined up to a hundred thousand dollars if they make any contact with the head.
Defensive players are just as vulnerable to concussions as offensive players. Former defensive end Junior Seau who played fifteen years in the NFL committed suicide last year. Seau was diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a brain disease that resulted from a series of devastating concussions he accumulated over his long career.
It’s not the first time the NFL has ignored CTE. The disease first came to light when Mike Webster, a former offensive lineman for the Steelers who played 17 years in the NFL died in 2002. Neurologist Bennet Omalu examined tissue from Webster’s brain and discovered that showed signs of degeneration similar to what occurs during Alzheimer’s or dementia. Unfortunately, the NFL ignored the discovery. It was not until 2009 when the Cincinnati Bengals’ wide receiver Chris Henry was diagnosed with CTE after he died at 26 that the NFL finally began to take CTE more seriously.
The reality of the concussion crisis may have come up in the last five to ten years, but the NFL is still mishandling the situation by adding more rules that end up hurting the game’s popularity more than actually protecting the players. Proper steps that should be taken with regard to players’ safety, such as improving equipment. More efforts need to be made to find new structures for helmets. New technologies should also be looked into getting developed for the sake of catching players who are potentially on performance enhancing drugs, as well as harsher punishments for those caught.
These drugs give players extra durability and strength that can cause greater physical damage when on the field.
That’s not to say that all of the rules should be thrown out. It’s the double standards against defensive players that need to change, but improvement in equipment and better PED testing would be a far more progressive step in solving the concussion crisis.
David Sanok is a senior communication major.