What exactly is a concussion? According to the CDC, a concussion is a traumatic brain injury caused by a hit or blow to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly back and forth. This movement can stretch and severely damage brain cells causing chemical changes in the brain. In the National Football League, concussions happen all the time. Most fans of football are aware of the correlation between NFL players who have sustained multiple, untreated concussions and the neurologic problems that follow. Concussions have been one of the biggest problems the NFL has faced. We hear about it all the time in the news how poorly the NFL handles concussions. In the 2015 football season, diagnosed concussions rose by nearly 32 percent according to ESPN writer Kevin Selfert. In the year 2015, the total number of concussions was 271 while in 2014 there was only 206 instances. Of the 271 instances, majority of them were caused by contact with another helmet, contact with the playing surface, or contact with a shoulder. Even though the NFL’s concussion policy makes teams more cautious of concussion like symptoms, it is still struggling to reduce the problem of concussions that occur in the league today. So what does the NFL need to do to increase concussion safety?
To start, concussions will always be a problem in the sport of football. In my opinion, it is almost impossible to completely get rid of concussions because the game is built around contact. One move that the NFL has recently done to try and decrease concussions is the new touchback rule on kickoffs. If the returning team does not run the ball out of the end zone, the team will start now on the 25 yard line instead of the 20 yard line. The goal of this rule is to discourage teams from returning the ball out of the end zone, which will cut down on players running and getting destroyed by the opposing team. Kick returns account for 23.4 percent of concussions during games even though it only represents 5.8 percent of overall plays, according to USA Today. People around the country will see at the end of the season if the NFL was successful in their new rule.
Another way to reduce concussions in football starts at the basic level of the game. Coaches and leagues all over the United States must properly teach kids how to tackle. Recently, the NFL has created Heads Up Football, a series of in person and online courses for coaches to learn the best ways to tackle and new safety procedures to limit head injuries. The NFL has sold thousands of Heads Up Football programs to parents all over the country and reported that the program has done well in limiting concussions. The report that was released by the NFL was false which was debunked by The New York Times. Heads Up Football showed no effect on concussions during studies.
No protective gear can completely eliminate the risk of a concussion in football, but improvements in equipment could easily reduce concussions. The NFL has made a deal with a company called Vicis who debuted a new helmet that the NFL hopes can help with the problems of concussions. According to Digital Trends, the new helmet is a multilayered that is adept at diminishing rotational and linear impact forces. Each layer has its own job in helping reduce the impact given to the head. Vicis plans on testing the high tech helmet out with Virginia Tech, even though it acknowledges the fact that their unique helmet cannot totally eliminate head injuries. Here is a video that shows off the new helmet.