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American Football tries to get smarter but is still no match for concussion.
In June 2016 Riddell an equipment manufacturer launched its Smarter Football campaign, aiming to recognize and reward those who advance the sport through more progressive playing habits and approaches to the game.
Driven by the concussion crisis, helmet manufactures such as Riddell are under pressure to be seen to be improving the game with fancy equipment and campaigns focused on smarter tackling.
The Guardian Journalist Jack Moore thinks this merely deflects from the truth that head injuries in American football are inevitable, no matter how smart the equipment or the tackling.
Historically since the late 1800s action has been taken to try to minimise head injuries. Back then head injuries were brutal, skull fractures and traumatic brain injury were a regular occurrence with only leather helmets and nose guards for protections. At this time advice was given to adjust the position of the head whilst tackling. Recommending players were trained to go into a tackle head-up rather than crown first. Preferring damage to the players’ noses and teeth as opposed to their skulls.
In the 1930s stricter rules were put in place but injuries in American Football kept piling up. Shocking statistics from the 1960s illustrate this. In 1968, 36 high school football players died on the field and another 30 suffered paralysis.
Mandatory safety standards in equipment were introduced in 1969 and injuries decreased in the 1970s, or so it seemed. The horrific skull fractures may have decreased but the hidden danger of repeated concussions would not be recognised in medical terms until 2013 and then another two years for the NFL to recognise it at all. This condition called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is the damage that the brain suffers from repeated concussions, concussion can be caused by impact but also by the rapid acceleration and deceleration of the brain. As the brain is shaken about the proteins in the brains suffer damage and change leading to symptoms similar to dementia.
Due to this, the improvements to helmets or employing ‘safer’ tackling techniques are not going to tackle this problem. These improvements deal with impact but not with the acceleration and deceleration problem. Headway charity actually says that helmets are arguably adding to the problem as they give the player a sense of security and they go in for harder tackles.
Read the full article here.