Helmet to helmet contact in the NFL is the source of much discussion these days. The subject frustrates me to no end for several reasons, but here is the biggest – ball carriers often drop their shoulder and head in order to “hit” an opposing player . . . And no penalty is called.
There could be several reasons for this discrepancy (none of them good) but a long standing bias in favor of offensive players (who usually cost teams more money) is probably to blame. Make no mistake about it, a running back lowering the boom on a player is every bit as dangerous, if not more so, than a linebacker launching into a receiver. Both types of hits can result in a concussion, but the low version of helmet to helmet contact presents a much greater risk of spinal cord injury.
Honestly, I can go either way on allowing helmet to helmet contact. It does seem to be an unavoidable part of the game, it used to be allowed in the NFL, and it is not policed nearly as closely in other leagues. Yes, it is dangerous and long term injuries to NFL players does hurt the bottom line for the league if it must care for those injured players. But if you are going to get tough on a certain type of hit, at least be consistent!
Truth be told, every type of hit in the NFL is more dangerous than in other leagues given the size, speed, and power of the players involved. Whether the powers that be intend for the crack down on head hits to result in more yardage is debatable. What does not seem so is that the new orientation will likely result in more catches, more run-after-catch yards, and more penalties against defenses. Defenders do not just launch into a player to take him out or to make highlight footage, though these are sometimes the reasons players engage in seemingly reckless tackles; oftentimes the reason players launch into another player is to knock out the ball or to knock the ball carrier back instead of allowing him to fall forward.
Another sad part of the NFL’s reaction to hard hits to the head is that it seems “reactionary” – and purely so. A few big hits on a given weekend, and new rules and guidelines are dreamed up. These changes do not seem well thought out and arrived to by careful study of the problem. The NFL has a long tradition of adopting rules and procedures on what appears to be a whim, and the situation with helmet to helmet contact is no exception.