Recognizing The Culture Of Violence In The NFL

Head Injuries and Concussions In The NFL

The Red Queen

In evolutionary biology, there’s a concept called the Red Queen Hypothesis. Simply put, it states that groups in a system have to evolve just to keep up with the other components of the system. If not, they irrevocably fall behind. Taken from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, one of the Red Queen’s speeches mentions “it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”

The NFL finds itself in a similar evolutionary situation: players are getting bigger, faster, and stronger at a blistering pace, while rules, player mentalities, and equipment all lag, in some cases, decades behind. All the while, players continue to take injuries which are career and life-threatening that often go untreated and undiagnosed simply because of the culture that exists in the NFL. With an incontrovertible pile of evidence mounting — from decreased NFL player lifespan to irreversible head injuries — will we see the NFL as a tragically barbaric testament to disregard for player safety in the pursuit of profit?

Size Matters

According to Time, the average weight of the professional NFL player has increased by 10% since 1985. This is not an accident. The monumental teams of years past were fueled by cigarettes, whiskey, and mountains of food. Not anymore. Teams now hire gobs of doctors and nutritionists to ensure their players are performing at peak ability, gaining the right kind of weight and building muscle.

Dick Butkus and Shawne Merriman Compared

The game is faster, too. Walter Payton, perhaps the greatest running back of all time ran a 40-yard-dash in 4.4 seconds in the early 1970s. Comparatively, at the 2010 NFL Combine, six players matched or beat a 4.4, with an additional thirty players running it faster than 4.6 seconds. Furthermore, not only are the individual plays faster, but there are more plays per game than ever. In 2007, the average length of a game was 3:02’59’’, with an average of 153.1 plays per game. Compare this to a season like 1985, with an average of 131 plays per game, or 1960, just a hair over 120 plays per game.

Finally, the players are stronger than ever. That 10% increase in body mass isn’t due to NFL players just getting chunky. Again, we look to the Combine for some interesting statistics. There, bench press is measured by how many reps an athlete can do of 225 pounds. In 2010, offensive and defensive linemen consistently put up more than 30 reps, and Mitch Petrus and Jeff Owens put up 45 and 44 reps, respectively. Let’s make it extremely clear: I can’t do 45 reps of walking from my refrigerator to my couch without stopping for a break, much less lifting my bodyweight over me that many times.

Oh, James

So players are bigger, faster, and stronger, which are all independent issues when taking into account the relative lack of progress in safety equipment. When players are playing within the rules, though, the threat to player safety is generally mitigated. Catastrophic accidents notwithstanding, the rules the NFL has in place do a good job of protecting the players. When individuals try to skirt the rules, though, is what magnifies and multiplies the danger inherent to what is at the most base level, a violent sport. Speaking of James Harrison…

You get that punter. He’s a real threat.

This is, of course, James Harrison. The same James Harrison who can be attributed to quotes like: “I thought Cribbs was asleep. A hit like that geeks you up, especially when you find out the guy is not really hurt, he’s just sleeping. He’s knocked out but he’s going to be OK.” And, in reference to a later hit on Mohamed Massaquoi, a wide receiver on the Browns: “That was a good, clean, legal hit. I put my head across the bow. To be honest, I laid off him a little bit. I could have put a lot more into him”.

The hits on Cribbs and Massaquoi happened in the same game. Both players were diagnosed with concussions, which in spite of the NFL’s “rub some dirt on it and get back out there” mantra, are dangerous in the short-term. Further, recent research has shown that even one concussion is proven to have a long-term detrimental effect on not only the athlete’s ability to play, but on the rest of their life. Harrison was fined $75,000 for the hit on Massaquoi, and in a display that epitomized his petulant tendencies, Harrison threatened to retire because he claimed he was no longer able to play the way he was taught. What this actually meant was he was no longer allowed to use his helmet as a weapon during head-to-head collisions.

Now, lets not make the mistake of turning football into two-hand touch. Contact is a part of the game, and you can hit a player very hard, cleanly. However, the idea that is burrowed into players’ heads from pop warner to the pros is that when you tackle, you start low, head looking up and forward, lead with your chest, wrap around the hips, and push through. This is a safe tackle. You’ll note that in the hit on Massaquoi, Harrison has his head straight down, makes no attempt to wrap up, leaves his feet, and leads with his helmet. There is no intent to “tackle” as defined in the rules – there is only intent to hit

Harrison may simply be a vocal bad egg, but the general tendency to hype up big hits regardless of concern for player safety is an ominous indicator. Think of all the “Jacked UP!” segments on Monday Night Football and SportsCenter Top 10s that highlight what is at the base of football: a culture of violence. Sweeping changes of how players are expected to act on the field needs to be implemented along with an evaluation of player safety regulations.

Effing Helmets, How Do They Work?

Technology will sort all of this out though, right? New super-helmets are going to eliminate the chance of a concussion by wrapping players’ noggins in a cushion of air and fairy dust! Well, sort of.

Vintage Pro Football Team Photo

So far, the steps forward in safety technology are baby steps, not giant leaps forward. The standard football helmet has undergone only a few major revisions since the dawn of football: from no head covering to leather, leather to plastic, and most recently, a design with the specific goal of reducing concussions and other head injuries. Helmet manufacturers are reluctant to change designs without a mountain of data indicating an improvement in safety, and players are reluctant to change their equipment. For example, mouthguards are one of the most efficient ways of eliminating traumatic shock to the brain as a result of blows to the jaw. The NFL, however, does not mandate the use of mouthguards and players simply elect to not wear them.

That said, Riddell’s Revolution helmet is the latest iteration in helmet technology Designed in conjunction with a bio-kinetics firm, it helps minimize the damage of helmet-to-helmet collisions and is now the most commonly used helmet in the NFL today. Other manufacturers are producing their own helmets with concussion-prevention technology, and safety technology will continue to incrementally improve, but there isn’t currently, and may never be, a truly concussion-proof helmet.

Going Forward

Ultimately, the issue with player safety isn’t directly recognizable now but is soon coming on the horizon. John Elway suffered multiple concussions through his career. Steve Young totaled seven concussions during his NFL tenure. Troy Aikman took ten concussions in his career, including two in a two-week span. This is simply the tip of the iceberg — the early ramifications of the bigger-faster-stronger era in the modern NFL. A recent article points to a 500% increase in dementia-related conditions in retired NFL players compared to the national average. In another 10-15 years, as players like Ben Roethlisberger and Jay Cutler begin to retire, we’ll begin to see the consequences of what happens when our culture and technology lag behind the evolution of sports. What happens is terrifying, because we already know the result:

It’s called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which roughly translates to “repeatedly getting clocked in the head.” Fundamentally, when you take a shot to the head, a little bit of your brain turns to mush. If you consistently have that happen through repeated incidents of head trauma, more parts of your brain turn to mush. This isn’t a coincidence, or just a lack of data. This happens to athletes across the board, but particularly affects football players. Detailed by the Seattle PI and Sports Illustrated, NFL players can expect to lose “two to three years off his life expectancy for every season played.”

Additionally, the New York Times discusses long-term effects of concussions with two important observations. First, researchers from the University of North Carolina and the University of Michigan have found “heightened rates of dementia and other cognitive decline” in retired NFL players. Second, and more concerning, is the policy of the NFL, as late as the beginning of 2010, to not claim responsibility. A quote from Greg Aiello, an NFL spokesman: “There are thousands of retired players who do not have memory problems.”

As the NFL looks to reduce preseason games and expand the regular season in the pursuit of higher revenues, fans can expect to see more repercussions of what is essentially a violent game, which begs the question: how do we work to limit these repercussions? Fines on dirty hits help, but fines are useless unless a culture exists that rewards clean play as much as punishes dirty play. Players like James Harrison, who genuinely believe their position on the field is to injure other players, need to be removed from play until they realize that their actions can cause permanent, irreversible damage to themselves and those they hit. Additionally, the NFL needs to – and has, in small steps – take immediate action on players that have received head injuries until all signs of decreased neural activity have been eliminated.

Players aren’t going to get smaller, and the game isn’t going to slow down. Those ships sailed long ago. We can wait for iterative advances in safety technology to come to fruition, or hope that incremental rule modifications are enough, but the fundamental element that needs to change is the culture. A culture that rewards big hits and simply dismisses dirty play produces an environment that is untenable for high-level football. Players, too, should keep in mind that no mega-contract, no highlight reel, and no championship game is worth their long-term health.

**********

           

Matt Emeterio is a sometimes-writer, sometimes-computer jock born and raised in Southern California. When he’s not updating one of his myriad fantasy sports leagues, he can be found near a mirror practicing his Norv Turner impression.

See Also: Intel and Riddel Team Up to Make Safer Football Helmets, Did He Really Just Say That?, Stanford cardiologists to screen former NFL players for heart disease, Laws Aim to Protect Student Athletes With Concussions, but Money Is Lagging, NFL Concussion Economics, and Neurologists Take A Stand Against Concussions.

Email

2
From The PBH NetworkHot On The Web
  1. Garrett says:

    They should make the dirty hitters wear a 10″ foam fro on the outside of their helmet. Safety doesn’t have to mean less entertainment.

  2. I kind of agree with the article. Football has gone from dangerous to life-threatening, which makes it more like a bloodsport than an athletic contest.

  3. Russ says:

    “The NFL, however, does not mandate the use of mouthguards and players simply elect to not wear them.”
    Uhhhh…what game are you watching? See those things hanging from their face mask? Yeah, those are mouthguards and every player has to wear one.
    Besides that incredible oversight, the article is pretty good.

  4. Tanner says:

    Were you just tryng to find something to write about? Yeah the leaue is advancing, but as time moves on things advance. pretty rediculous article, and issue if you ask me. BTW, mean clean up James Harrison

  5. Mwm1223 says:

    I don’t really understand the point of this. Players make a choice to play football for millions of dollars. Regular people risk their lives everyday when they go to work. No one is being forced to play. If you think the risk of serious injury is not worth the million dollar payout, you can quit. Period. I agree with enforcing rules that keep the players safe by discouraging unneeded violence but this does not mean that we should change football into soccer.

  6. Mookie says:

    Aw, how cute. The writer doesn’t know what “begs the question” means.

    • Kit says:

      I find the meaning of “begs the question” pretty interesting because I’ve never actually heard someone use it correctly. It’s really funny that the “proper” way to use it is actually not in use. I’d go so far as to say that the dictionary definition is so far removed from actual usage as to render it completely useless. Language Log has a brilliant post about the etymology here, and the origins of the phrase are semi-ridiculous anyways.

      Therefore I’d like to propose that instead of getting butthurt over using it in the colloquial manner, people embrace the more useful definition that has emerged. I still do have a reflexive reaction to seeing it used to mean raise the question, but I think intellectually I’ve decided to support that usage as a perfectly cromulent one.

  7. === popurls.com === popular today…

    yeah! this story has entered the popular today section on popurls.com…

  8. buddy says:

    Football is for the mindless idiotic people.Take it off tv along with nascar.

  9. Matt Emeterio says:

    Hey guys. I wrote this! I’ll try to field some questions and random comments as they come up.

    @Garrett – in the late 80s/early 90s, a handful of players wore padding on their helmets, it basically ended up not catching on because it didn’t look cool – check here: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=easterbrook/101026_tuesday_morning_quarterback&sportCat=nfl

    @Russ – mouthguards aren’t mandated by the NFL. Check out offensive linemen. Players in impact positions often wear them, but it’s their choice.

    @Tanner – point is that if things don’t advance fast enough relative to the systems they inhabit, they can fall irrevocably behind

    @Mwm – I’m not disagreeing that the players can leave at any time, but there’s a safe way to play football and that’s not what the predominant culture rewards.

    @Mookie – Not every phrase is a refutation of a logical fallacy. 😉

  10. […] Source:http://www.prosebeforehos.com/sports-editor/11/19/recognizing-culture-of-violence-nfl/ This entry was posted in Sports and tagged 3 years, brain damage, heart attacks, NFL. Bookmark the permalink. ← Like a BOSH (Video) LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  11. […] 3 years from their life. Will America see the NFL as a barbaric industry in the near future?Source:http://www.prosebeforehos.com/sports-editor/11/19/recognizing-culture-of-violence-nfl/ Posted by ltrawler at 4:08 AM Labels: 3 years, brain damage, heart […]

  12. Larry says:

    In the late 70s, Joe Greene was the largest man on the Pittsburgh Steelers famed Steel Curtain defense, weighing in at 263#. Last night I watched a NT being introduced at 360#. Offensive linemen averaged in the 240-255 range. Now you can’t even get on the field if you weigh less than 300. All this size is unnatural and lethal.

    I sold life insurance in the 90s, and no company I worked with would insure professional athletes, but particularly football players. Average lifespan, or so we were told, for an NFL player with more than 8 seasons was 59.

  13. […] leaves the game softer than when he joined. The league has rightly cracked down on soaring concussions and big hits. Breathe on a quarterback and you draw a roughing the passer flag. But you can’t […]

  14. Please get the JAW JOINT PROTECTION in the Concussion Discussion.
    Hits to the JAW and the FACE MASK are both significant contributors to Concussion by the impact of a hit even to the ground causes the Lower Jaw to make contact with the TMJ which is just below the base of the Skull.
    A Dual Arch JAW JOINT PROTECTOR which cushions the LOWER JAW reduces the IMPACT by as much as 40 percent.
    thus offering the the potential to reduce risk of concussions. BRAIN PAD http://www.brainpads .com has provided hundreds of thousands of athletes this protection. Owen Schmitt of the Eagles has worn a BRAIN PAD since High School and had no concussions as is the case in many of our athletes. It is time to use a product that potentially offers protection. The Risk Reward Ratio is worth it. I am sure you know that pharmaceuticals we take
    are not 100% effective in most cases, however the reward here outweighs the RISK.

  15. My Homepage says:

    … [Trackback]…

    […] There you will find 91485 more Infos: prosebeforehos.com/sports-editor/11/19/recognizing-culture-of-violence-nfl/ […]…

  16. fsgb80v7cbwe says:

    Websites we think you should visit…

    we like to honor many other internet sites on the web, even if they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Under are some webpages worth checking out…

  17. nfl scores says:

    nfl scores…

    Recognizing The Culture Of Violence In The NFL – Prose Before Hos…

  18. opening of louis vuitton…

    Recognizing The Culture Of Violence In The NFL – Prose Before Hos…

  19. … [Trackback]…

    […] Read More: prosebeforehos.com/sports-editor/11/19/recognizing-culture-of-violence-nfl/ […]…

  20. define tmj says:

    define tmj…

    Recognizing The Culture Of Violence In The NFL – Prose Before Hos…

  21. Menstrual Cramps In Your Back…

    Recognizing The Culture Of Violence In The NFL – Prose Before Hos…

  22. the paper out loud.6. using proper grammar,…

    spelling and punctuation – colleges usually assume that you have already learned how to use all these things. but it is worth improving these skills so that you can use them when it comes time to looking for a job in…

  23. left with no choice but to write…

    about that certain topic. now the problem in this scenario is the tendency of a writer to poorly perform or refuse to write due to his lack of interest in the assigned topic. what should be done? be flexible like how…

  24. and keywords sprinkled all throughout your content….

    don’t overdo it; make sure the tags are spread out evenly.third, don’t publish anything without reviewing it first. this way, you can do a self-evaluation to check if your content is well-written, if the facts are well-organized, if the keywords are…

  25. party says:

    a sustainable career. you can replicate this…

    same process. the starting point and ending point will differ depending upon your unique circumstances. but the fact is, that by practicing your craft on a daily basis and pouring your passion into your writing, whether it is article marketing or…

  26. Ryan Trapalis…

    Generally I don’t read item upon blogs….

  27. Kenton Abundis…

    Practically I don’t read article after which blogs….

  28. heating and air condtioning salida ca…

    Recognizing The Culture Of Violence In The NFL – Prose Before Hos…

  29. xbox 360 says:

    Impressive web pages…

    some time to browse or take a look at the content or online sites we have linked to down below the…

  30. Ha Treusdell says:

    Blogs ou ought to be browsing…

    Listed here is usually a captivating Blog page You would Acquire helpful that we Encourage You to look at…

  31. click the up coming post…

    Recognizing The Culture Of Violence In The NFL – Prose Before Hos…

  32. You really should check this out…

    Online websites of interest now we have a website link to…

  33. Great site…

    time to browse or explore the articles and other content or online websites we now have related to under the…

  34. Excellent web pages…

    the time to browse or pay a visit to the information or online websites we’ve associated with beneath the…

  35. Online websites we think you might want to see…

    while online websites we backlink to beneath are considerably not related to ours, we sense they are literally worth a experience, so use a look…

  36. Cambridgeshire wedding photographer…

    an example of our prospects a brief even while in the past preferred the next web page…

  37. interesting thing about this gecko as opposed…

    to others is that they congregate. during the day, they will all get together, so to speak, in a large group. scientists think one reason for this might be to keep warm.the common death adder is a snake that lives up…

  38. Internet websites we think that make sure you pay a visit to…

    even if web sites we backlink to beneath are noticeably not linked to ours, we experience these are truly price a go through, so have a very look…

  39. Great internet sites…

    we arrived across a amazing webpage that you simply could possibly take pleasure in. Get a glance if you’d like…

  40. Nice webpages…

    we came throughout a fantastic web page that you just could get pleasure from. Require a glance if you would like…

  41. Read was captivating, remain in touch…

    please check out the web sites we stick to, like this a particular, since it represents our picks from your web…

  42. One way links…

    Web sites of fascination we’ve got a backlink to…

  43. Blogs ou ought to be examining…

    Here really is a remarkable Site You can actually Discover important that we Persuade You to observe…

  44. Internet Brief article…

    The information outlined in the write-up are a few of the best offered…

  45. Nick Kayser says:

    Excellent web pages…

    the time to browse or pay a visit to the information or online websites we’ve associated with beneath the…

  46. air conditioning rocklin ca…

    Recognizing The Culture Of Violence In The NFL – Prose Before Hos…

  47. Customer suggestions…

    one in all our visitors recently advocated the next webpage…

  48. Burt Rochell says:

    Brilliant web site…

    enough time to go through or head to the website content or web-sites we’ve got connected to down below the…

  49. Excellent web site…

    the time to study or take a look at the material or online websites we now have associated with underneath the…

  50. Vada Tolman says:

    Resources…

    take a look at under, are a few 100 % unrelated internet sites to ours, but, they are really most trustworthy resources that we use…

  51. salida heating…

    Recognizing The Culture Of Violence In The NFL – Prose Before Hos…

  52. Superb websites…

    consistently a giant fan of linking to bloggers that I love but don’t get yourself a great deal of link appreciate from…

  53. Web-sites we Like…

    Each and every after within a even though we decide weblogs that we browse. Detailed below are classified as the current web pages that we pick out…

  54. Online Article…

    The information pointed out with the piece of writing are a few of the greatest accessible…

  55. Online websites price checking out…

    the following are a few one way links to internet sites that we link to due to the fact we think that they are really worthy of checking out…

  56. Phil Yochem says:

    On the web Short article…

    The knowledge stated during the guide are a few of the best on hand…

Hot On The Web