Traumatic Brain Injuries in Football: After $765 Million Settlement, High Schools Follow Suit in Safety Measures
"The race is on to see if football can change," Peter King writes for Sports Illustrated, "and so far, after three years, the effort is there on all levels." In "Head Trauma in Football: A Special Report," King notes that after the NFL agreed to a $765 million dollar settlement in a suit brought by retired players over the head injuries they sustained throughout their careers, a "trickle-down effect" has occurred where not only the NFL is taking more safety measures to prevent head injuries where it can, but high school football coaches are following suit.
After the settlement, the NFL has implemented new rules that are intended to reduce the severity and frequency in which players sustain blows to the head. According to King, 41 of 49 polled high school football coaches purport to have modified their training techniques to prevent head trauma as well. One such technique is the "heads up" technique, which encourages young players to tackle each other with their heads raised, as opposed to "using the helmet as a battering ram." One coach has even told his players that if any of them duck their heads while playing, they will be barred from playing. Such measures are significant not only in preventing head injuries, but also in promoting an idea of safety that perhaps was not present in the game before. For instance, one young player in King's article admits to having hidden a concussion from his coach and parents for the love of the game. Promotion of safe techniques will hopefully encourage players to report head injuries by enforcing the idea that head injuries are dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.
Of course, with the nature of football as a sport, coaches are aware that they cannot prevent concussions and head injuries in their entirety. As a result, football is being avoided altogether in some high schools. King reports that one Pennsylvania high school has more students signed up for the lacrosse team than for the football team, something previously unheard of in the area.
Regardless, King writes that he believes "football will survive the storm," so long as coaches and parents continue to work towards making the game safer. And with the trickle-down effect of the NFL's new safety measures safely solidified throughout the country, perhaps in several years, football will be considered a safer game, one less synonymous with head injury.
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"Head Trauma in Football: A Special Report," Peter King, The MMQB (Sports Illustrated) (Oct. 22, 2013)