Sunday, January 24, 2010

Time to rethink football?

After watching the episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel(on HBO) highlighting “Concussions in the NFL", I looked into the topic further and I think I like what I just read. There was an article, “Ten Point Plan to Save Football” (written by Chris Nowinski), which was referred to in this program. Searching for this article, I came across the Sports Legacy Institute. This is an organization founded by Chris Nowinski (Co-Director, Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, Boston University School of Medicine) and Dr. Robert Cantu (Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery, Boston University School of Medicine). The Sports Legacy Institute was founded in 2007 when new medical research indicated that sport is in a national crisis concerning brain trauma. This article (Ten Point Plan to Save Football), is a good read and a beginning of further discussion and (more importantly) action. It is not just the exciting violent collision that creates dangerous consequences and a concussed athlete, but multiple lesser blows (or collisions) to the head that creates a cumulative effect that results in brain injury. After twenty-five years in the field of athletic training, I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as a “mild brain injury”. There are some points in this article which is (in my opinion) common sense and some of which will face steep opposition. American football is an “institution” in this country and has long been revered for its punishing violence and the sheer toughness of the athletes that play the game. Athletes are getting bigger, stronger and faster. Technology has produced better equipment and padding in an effort to protect the athletes. I think that it is important to note here that as athletes get bigger, stronger and faster; the forces in which they collide become greater. Also, as technology creates better protection, athletes become less inhibited when it comes to using their bodies as projectiles. As the mass gets larger and moves at a faster speed, the force of contact becomes more violent. Helmets and padding produce great protection for the exterior body surfaces, but do little for reducing the momentum of the brain inside of the cranium. This is the very reason that the entire paradigm of how the sport of football is taught and played must be rethought. The “Ten Point Plan to Save Football” article is a great place begin the shift in this paradigm.

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