All sports fans know that football is a tough game. It gets tougher as the level of competition advances. There is really nothing “soft” about football.
Football has alwasy been known as a contact sport. I think that is a rather reserved description. I feel that football is a collision sport, a violent sport. It is much more violent than it was a few decades ago and the reasons are disputable. There are a number of reasons for the upgraded violence of football.
Over the past few seasons there has been much talk, and some action, about doing something to calm the violence in football. Most of the action takes place at the professional and college levels and then filters down to the high school level.
Most of the concerns come from the violent hits that are taken by ball carriers, pass receivers, running backs, and quarterbacks. There is general contact on every play but these players are the ones who take the vicious blows that can cause serious injury and concussions.
I am not aware of any coach that teaches a player to use his body like a missile and to fly through the air and strike an opponent with the helmet. I assume that coaches still teach the basic techniques of tackling like squaring up, dropping your hips, keeping your face up, leading with your shoulders, wrapping up, and driving through the ball carrier. Of course not all tackles can be made with these fundamentals, but I do believe that most coaches still teach this.
Young players in the recreation leagues and high school watch the pros. They want to be like the pros. The pros, and to some degree the college players, want to make the highlight films on TV and to do that they must make the violent tackle. They feel that they need to launch themselves into a defenseless ball carrier or receiver and try to separate him from the football and knock him senseless. That’s how to make the highlight film and excite the crowd. That’s also how to injure a player and end a career. Spearing, or leading with the head, has always been illegal, but these guys have taken it to a different level.
Coaches are teaching their players that forcing fumbles and turnovers can be a key to winnning. These violent hits are a way to force these turnovers. It’s also a way to build a reputation and create a mystique that opponents will respect or fear. These guys love to strut around and dance while an injured opponent lies helpless on the turf. It’s rather sickening, but some fans love to see this stuff.
The NFL has made hitting the quarterback a “thing of the past.” Almost any hit on a quarterback will draw a penalty flag. These guys are really defenseless and protecting them has become a top priority for the league. As teams in the NFL begin to allow their quarterbacks to run with the football more, the refs may allow more contact but if they stay in the pocket they are fairly safe. They have also gotten tough on any hit where the tackler strikes an opponent with the head gear.
I really feel that if defensive players would adjust their style of tackling, the safety of football would not be such a concern. These guys have just taken things to an unacceptable level with their “head-first, body-launching” style. It is unnecessary and should be punished severely.
The game will always be very physical. There is contact on every play and thus there is always a chance for injury. Concussions are prevalent because of the consistent head contact which takes place within the general rules of the game. You just can’t take all of the physical play out of the game.
Well, is the game so consistently physical and dangerous that youngsters should avoid playing football? I don’t think so, but with the ongoing talk about injuries and concussions there is already a concern among parents of youngers players. Some are looking for alternative sports.
As in so many cases, the youngsters watch the pros and try to copy them. If the pros clean up their act, maybe some of the unnecessary violence will cease at all levels.
Is football unsafe? I don’t think so, but I do think that the sport can introduce some changes that will make it safer.