It is no secret the football is a dangerous sport. The more we’ve learned over the years about head injuries, the more we’ve tried to protect the safety of football players.
Football players are more at risk for head injuries than other athletes because in football the head, protected by the helmet, is used as a weapon. Head injuries can happen in any sport but only in football are players intentionally using their heads to attack.
So a new is aimed at making the game just a little bit safer. The new rule makes it illegal for a player to lower his helmet before making a hit. The goal is to decrease the likelihood of a helmet-to-helmet collision. This type of contact is the most dangerous to football players and in the past has resulted in serious injuries.
If a player does in fact lower his head to hit an opposing player there will be a large penalty. If the offending player is on offense, the team loses 15 yards. If he is on defense, the play results in an automatic first down. The player in question can also be ejected from the game.
Problems with the New Rule
Some say that the new rule is going to have little to no effect on the game. In 2013, the NFL instated a rule that banned players from leading with the crown of the head. This went for running backs carrying the ball as well as for defenders making tackles. But this rule went little enforced over the last five seasons. The question is, can this new rule have any more affect?
Another potential issue with the rule is how it is to be enforced. If a running back, for example, lowers his head to run through a hole but does not make contact with an opposing player it would presumably not result in a penalty. But if the running back makes contact with the shoulder of an opposing player? Does it have to be helmet-to-helmet for it to be a penalty?
There is much left up to the discretion of the referees with this new rule. What constitutes lowering of the helmet? Football is a game played at lightning speed. Players are in constant motion. How is it to be judged if a player has purposefully lowered his head in order to collide with another player?
The other part of the new rule is that it gives referees the authority to eject a player is they lower their head to make contact. In the past, in order to be ejected, a player had to make a hit deemed flagrant. But now, any hit in which the player lowers his head can be cause for ejection. This could give referees unprecedented power to change the course of a game.
Going Too Far with Safety?
Some fans feel that football is a dangerous game and there is no need to make it safer. If we all agree that there are risks involved, why do we need to change the rules? This line of thinking comes from the football mentality of showing no weakness and being tougher than your opponent.
Of course, toughness is a big part of football. So is pain, and danger, and injury. Every sport has its risks. But because football is especially dangerous in terms of brain injuries, it is essential that players have all the protection possible. As fans of the game we have a responsibility to take care of the players we love to watch. We should support the NFL in its decision to implement this new rule.
It’s hard to know how this rule may change football for the future. The trend in the NFL seems to be toward safety. It seems each year there is more information out there about the dangers of head injuries and the NFL has to respond with how to make their players safer. But like the rule from 2013, it remains to be seen whether this new rule is actually going to be enforced. While it seems like a win for the players from the outset, we are going to have to wait for next season to see how it plays out.