Football is a dangerous sport, and this weekend it was more apparent than ever. Rutgers player Eric LeGrand, tackling an opponent, wound up paralyzed from the neck down. Philly’s DeSean Jackson and Atlanta’s Dunta Robinson almost had a double-knockout with Robinson’s tackle, and Detroit’s Zack Follett knocked himself out. Hits delivered by New England Patriots Brandon Meriweather (which knocked out Cleveland’s Josh Cribbs) and Pittsburgh Steelers James Harrison also stunned over the weekend.
However, is football simply a dangerous sport, or are we seeing injury after injury that could have been prevented if more sportsmanlike means were intended? The recent injury to the spinal cord which paralyzed Rutgers player Eric LeGrand this weekend was self-inflicted, caused by the manner in which he charged head-first into a defensive tackle, as reported in my previous piece on Associated Content. While his injury gathers lots of sympathy, to others it is a warning on how not to play the game, as charging into other players head and neck first has severe consequences. LeGrand was motionless on the ground from the injury while being tended to by medical personnel before being hospitalized. Surely scary and emotional, what’s troubling is that this type of injury is avoidable. On a hopeful note, ESPN’s John Clayton feels that just the level of attention and outrage this weekend’s hits are receiving shows good progress for football, states Ray Gustini with The Atlantic Wire.
What needs to be examined is what plays are illegal, and why; and penalizations should be strong for those in violation. On a college level, Gustini continues, plays which involve a runner slamming head-on into another player, or “leading with their helmet”, are illegal; however, this is not yet the case on a professional level. Mike Pereira, former NFL Vice President of Officiating and current Fox Sports Columnist believes that while the devastating hits this weekend were not all technically “illegal”, they did violate the spirit of the game. When Harrison collided with Mohamad Massaquoi over the weekend, it was not a helmet-to-helmet hit– but this is not required to be considered illegal, notes Ed Bouchette at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
From simply a good health care perspective, respect should be given to one another on the field outside of mere sportsmanship. The rules of the game should be upheld to properly prevent serious trauma to the head, neck, and spine. While football is a rough sport by nature, charging at people with your head and neck or causing a direct blow to another’s head or neck can have dreadful results. Even a simple concussion and loss of consciousness from a blow to the head can have lasting consequences; a second concussion can even cause fatal brain swelling (Health News Digest). Blows like the ones delivered by Meriweather and Harrison this weekend will be subject to further scrutiny by officials, predicted Pereira. Perhaps the rules will start to change as a result, and perhaps the NFL could adopt some of the same rules on illegal plays in place at college level.
All of the injuries which took place over this weekend in football were preventable. We are paying attention, which is good, but we cannot erase any potentially permanent damaged incurred. When players tackle each other head-on, whether technically illegal or just unsportsmanlike, death is always a possible result. When players respect each other enough to not seriously endanger one another’s health, tragedies occur less.
Elizabeth Eng, Eric LeGrand, Rutgers Player, Paralyzed, Associated Content
Ray Gustini, Was This Awful Weekend a Tipping Point for Football’s Head Shot Epidemic?, The Atlantic Wire
Ed Bouchette, NFL to review Harrison hit, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Football Season: Prevent Potentially Tragic Head and Neck Injuries, Health News Digest