Changing the game or changing the perception: Concussions in the National Football League

In recent years the National Football League (NFL) has made rule changes to stop the helmet to helmet hits placed on wide receivers, ball carriers, and quarterbacks. The NFL concussions rules are made for players who are on the television screen the majority of the time. Let me explain what I mean by this. When the football is snapped from the center to the quarterback on national television, where does the camera go? When the ball is thrown from the quarterback to the wide receiver while 6’0 226 pound safeties like Indianapolis Colts star LaRon Landry are barreling down at high speeds, and built like Mack trucks; where does the camera go? When 5’11 208 pound Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is given the ball and told to run up the middle where 260 pound defensive linemen and linebackers are waiting; where does the camera go? In each and every situation, the camera follows the ball! Every year the percentage of balls being thrown are increasing. For anyone who watches the NFL on a religious basis knows that the NFL is a pass happy league. So when the camera follows a ball being thrown to former Colts wide receiver Austin Collie, and he suffers concussion after concussion, the world sees this. That leaves me wondering, why does the camera never stay on the offensive and defensive lineman who are having helmet to helmet contact with one another nearly every play? Well for one, that wouldn’t be good television if we watched fat men bang heads and bellies the entire game.

So think about this, when flags are being thrown, we always see the yellow rags down field for helmet to helmet contact. The NFL wants to protect players, so why do we never see flags being thrown for helmet to helmet contact on lineman? This is because the NFL is not looking to change the game, but furthermore the NFL is changing the perception and saving boat loads money. If a defensive lineman gives Peyton Manning or Tom Brady a love tap on the head, you can chalk that up as an automatic fifteen yards. We know these star quarterbacks are the money makers, so the NFL protects them first. Players can’t tackle low anymore, or hit a quarterback in the head. However, as seen when 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks went to sack Saints quarterback Drew Brees, what did Drew Brees do? The same thing any man would do, and that is, duck! Brooks is already taller than Brees, so instead of hitting Brees where he aimed (chest level), Brooks hit Brees in the head; automatic fifteen yard penalty and a game changing play. Of course 49ers were irate about the call, but that’s the way the NFL saves its own butt.
With all the looming court cases that have been over the NFL’s head, the legal system wants to know how they plan on stopping the concussion rate. So what does the NFL do, protect the players who are on camera 90% of the time, but not the ones who are taking helmet to helmet hits 90% of the time.

Concussionblog.org states in a 2011 report on concussions that, “Research and evidence shows us that there is a compiling effect of traumatic forces to the brain. The sub-concussive hits can be just as dangerous over a long period of time, and they eventually manifest themselves as concussions or worse as the players age. There were actually more concussions for the offensive lineman overall and the reporting seemed to be consistent all year.” Lineman are taking from anywhere between 60 to 70 snaps game, and ramming heads with defensive lineman nearly every play. What Concussionblog is telling us is that sub-concussive hits, the 60 to 70 head ramming plays I speak of, are just as damaging as one bone crushing tackle across the middle of the field that leaves Wes Welker concussed.

In an article found on pbs.org, written by Jason M. Breslow, he writes about the NFL’s recent settlement with the thousands of players. Breslow says, “In a surprise announcement, the NFL agrees to a $765 million settlement in the concussion case. The settlement ensures league officials will not have to answer questions under oath about what they knew about a link between football and traumatic brain injury.” Why not go to court and save your $765 million dollars? For one, the NFL can just create a few rules to change the perception of the game because the camera will always follow star players and this is where the spotlight is at its brightest. Secondly, the NFL has had a recent rise in league revenue last season. In a Forbes article found online, Mike Ozanian writes, “The increase in NFL values during the past year was mainly due to a 3.6% rise in league revenue last season, to an average of $286 million per team, from $276 million in 2011. Five teams posted double-digit gains in value: the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons and St. Louis Rams.” If the NFL is becoming more popular, then losing $765 million is a slap on the risk for a business making billions of dollars a year. That money will be made back through the increasing revenue, and the players who are fined for helmet to helmet hits down field. The men in the trenches are still being left behind in the NFL concussion debates.

Jason Breslow continues to write in his pds.org article, “During the 2013 NFL preseason, FRONTLINE finds 40 instances of a player concussion or head injury reported on team websites. However, because of a gap in how teams report injury data to the league, just 10 of those concussions end up on the official NFL injury report for Week 1 of the season.” This is information the majority of NFL fans will not see because it’s not on television every Sunday. The NFL is changing perception, for the sake of its future and deep pockets; however, helmet to helmet hits will continue among NFL lineman weighing nearly 300 pounds and going unnoticed by the masses because our eyes do not follow them when the camera shifts down-field.

Online sources used:

Breslow, Jason M. “NFL Concussions: The 2013-14 Season In Review.” PBS. PBS, 30 Jan. 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2014.

Ozanian, Mike. “The Most Valuable NFL Teams.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 14 Aug. 2013. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

“2011 Concussion Report – End of Regular Season.” The Concussion Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2014.

“SI.com – Photo Gallery – SI’s Pictures From The Year.” SI.com – Photo Gallery – SI’s Pictures From The Year. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2014. .