I stopped following football after watching League of Denial on PBS. If I'm at the bar or something and it happens to be on, I might passively watch it, but I haven't sought it out since. I just can't support the NFL.
I do feel torn though because I love hockey. I know they're dealing with similar controversies. My justification, however flimsy it might be is that I don't like the fighting (I might be in a minority, but I'd have no issue if the NHL eliminates fighting altogether), and the big hits aren't why I watch...I enjoy the stick work, the dangling and skills getting to the net. I can also appreciate that the NHL does seem to be doing a better job at cracking down on the dirty hits.
I also play hockey (in a non-check beer league) and am very aware about the risks. I'm also an adult who is old and mature enough to accept these risks. I don't know how much that can be said for the elementary/middle/high school kids playing sports like hockey and football.
Football is such an intrinsically contact sport that I don't think a safer game would even be recognizable.
Actually, that might be worse... If hockey turns out to have as bad a concussion problem, the leadership of the sport is likely even more culpable because they had more options to fix the problem than football does.
I agree hockey could survive the elimination of checking, and think it probably will happen eventually. It's not even introduced until 14U age and younger kids learn to play with body contact only.
It would be a different game but all the skilled puck handling, skating, passing, shooting and speed would remain.
This is offered as a solution a lot, but I am not sure if it would actually be effective. Football helmets were introduce early in the 20th century because dozens of people were dying every year playing football. Football helmets put an end to those deaths caused by acute trauma, but the physics of the game and those collisions haven't changed. Football is just a more violent game than Rugby due to various reasons like position specialization, more frequent stoppages of play, and the inherent directions of play for the offense and defense. It is rare to have two players in rugby running full speed at each other head on. That happens in football on nearly every play and often multiple times per play.
Helmets enable players to weaponize their heads, like this recent hit (Vontaze Burfict's suspension earning HIT on Anthony Sherman): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7qQtadYqsI and many others demonstrate. I believe removing helmets would mitigate this behaviour and increase the long term health of football players. Looking for data on Aussie rules, this is not quite what I was hoping to find, but interesting: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Australian_rules_footb...
Without question Aussie rules has its share of devastating brain injuries: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1aU0hz5Tf8. Plenty of concussions and fencing responses in that clip.
At 33, I've stopped watching North American football altogether because the violence turned me off. 10 years ago it was my second fav sports (to Hockey).
WRs for example have a somewhat similar situation to AFL players since they are mostly being chased by the defense and they don't get nearly as many contact injuries as RBs for example. Not to mention they are protected by (frequently controversial) pass interference rules.
From what I gather, introduction of the helmets back in the day reduced injury rates.
You could bubble wrap the jar (helmet), but the ball will still collide with the inside of the jar.
When they run towards each other, due to the rules, they don't just try and collide and call it a "tackle". I agree football is a more violent game intentionally but it's purely how the game is played and if you change the rules you'd have teams finding ways to play differently, with different skillsets prioritised.
However, much as we aussies like to mock gridiron for the pads it requires, without the pads, players used to die relatively routinely. Take the pads away from gridiron and it would need to change and loosen up enough that it basically becomes rugby.
But I'm not sure American broadcasters could adjust to a game with only two halfs of 40min each, no stopping of the clock and nowhere to stuff their abundance of ads.
I wouldn't mock the Americans too much for their famous love of advertising. I haven't found a sport yet that is as much a slave to advertising as Aussie Rules. Try to find a square meter of space at an AFL game without advertising - even the ball itself is adorned with the golden arches.
 Okay, some of the grass doesn't have advertising on it.....
The huge and essential difference is that in gridiron the players in the 'scrum' start ~2m appart and run towards each other head first at full speed. And while most players in rugby can go several plays without taking a hit, linemen take a significant hit basically every single play.
I'm curious, did Australian Rules Football go to padding and then remove it? Because I think that once padding is put in place, it's very tough to get people to remove it.
I'm not saying these changes would be a bad thing, only that I have doubts it'll ever happen.
If viewership continues to go down, and parent stop letting their kids play at lower levels because of health conserns, they will also lose money.
In fact, the most popular video on YouTube about the fencing response has a shocking amount of overlap with the "big hits" video you shared. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlXjwAlOflA
Frankly, your video was kind of hard to watch. It's basically 3 minutes of people getting their brains rattled in their skulls.
But still, obviously it certainly exists, and I'm sure there is a lot of head trauma every year.
Players are highly incentivized to "give it their all", and that's how people end up getting injured or receive massive head trauma.
Hockey can be just as violent, but it's a much more fluid sport, so the pressure isn't on as much for the extra exceptional effort.
I've thought this may be why American football has more of the full body collision, where two (very large and powerfully built) men collide at high velocity almost horizontal to the earth. They're trying to gain as little as a few inches in the collision.
I've heard complaints from Australian rules players who come to the US about tackling - that the way US players have learned to tackle doesn't have much strategic value and greatly increases the possibility of injury, buy they continue to tackle this way when they join Australian rules leagues.
That's what I've heard and thought about, I do want to be clear that I don't know too much about all this - what I've written is more of a question in case someone in the know could weigh in.
In American football you also may only tackle the ball carrier. You can initiate contact other guys (usually in the form of blocking), and that can be very violent at times...but I don't think there's a scenario where you can tackle someone without the ball (and it not be called for a penalty).
The main difference in tackling technique between American Football and both codes of Rugby is use of the arms. In Rugby the arms must be used to tackle the opposing player. A shoulder charge, with no arms used, is illegal and may result in expulsion from the game. In a recent New Zealand vs British and Irish Lions game, NZ player Sonny Bill Williams was given a red card and sent from the pitch for this exact offence.
The other main points to note are that the opposing player can only be tackled below shoulder level and, as you've pointed out, in open play only the ball carrying may be tackled (or blocked).
Tackling the ball itself and not the player.
I don't have stats to back this up, but my general impression over the last couple of seasons is that less scrums require resetting.
A few yards makes a huge difference in rugby, and players are certainly highly incentivised to give it their all, but even for the battering ram-type players, their ability to help the team actually get the ball across the gain line is a function of the stamina and mobility to get around the pitch for multiple phases of play, complex situational awareness and some degree of ball handling skills, not just the ability to block off the man directly in front of them for a few plays.
Not to mention rugby's increasingly strictly applied and penalised rules on what is and isn't a legal tackle which mean that a player who doesn't tackle in a relatively safe manner will be a liability to their teammates as well as themselves
There are just five men on the ice for a team in hockey, there's arguably more pressure for each individual player to "give it their all" at any one moment than in football where there's 11 men on the field.
As someone lucky to be from Pittsburgh where we have both the Penguins and Steelers consistently being the top teams in the NHL and NFL respectively, there is no shortage of serious brain trauma in the NHL. Just ask Sidney Crosby.
signed, this totally not still upset Seahawks fan.
(re: 2015 Superbowl)
And yet, rubgy and Australian football have just as much contact and do not suffer from an endemic injury problem.
Maybe something related to the padding?
Most of the contact in aussie rules is tackling from behind, whereas in gridiron on every play you have around nine guys smashing into each other just as the quarterback receives the ball... and then all the additional contact depending on the play, including tackling like in aussie rules.
Don't have much commentary on the subject and just wanted to share the vid. I'd only think that a difference like that can't really be resolved to padding.
A rugby union player has to run around the pitch for 2 bouts of 40 minutes [about 40 minutes of 'ball in play' time]. According to this article - https://qz.com/150577/an-average-nfl-game-more-than-100-comm... - the average NFL match is 11 minutes of action, in [average] 4s bursts, over a 3+ hour period. Many NFL positions can optimise for muscle mass without worrying about stamina and sustained speed.
FWIW the measured tackle and at least one footage tackle [8mins 26s] in your linked video - https://youtu.be/TSc_Gxq1two - look illegal to me, lifting a player and pushing them down with head/shoulders first towards the ground (spearing, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spear_tackle) is a red-card offence.
Not just mass. What I often hear NFL athletes and trainers talk about maximizing "explosion" in their movements.
It may be harder to detect chronic brain trauma in that population.
Football is fundamentally flawed. Many positions exist entirely because it's rough and violent. Players who never touch the football in a well played game.
Indeed. Olympic hockey is a perfect example of a step in that direction, and one of the greatest versions of the game in existence.
If it ditched the requirement that the game always be played on ice, the skill level of hockey in the US could be comparable to its basketball. All those high school football stadiums could get some asphalt surface, chainlink fencing to stand in for the glass, and a few sets of sticks and inline skates, and we could all watch hockey on Friday nights instead of kids knocking their skulls together.
Even shirling (snake baiting) would be better. No-fly Quidditch would be better. Robot fighting league would be better. Two old barbershop guys telling shaggy dog stories would be better. A magnified view of an ant colony devouring a moth would be better. Just watching the grass on the field grow would be... worse. There is a line.
Could it? I wonder how many people would continue to watch hockey if fights weren't essentially sanctioned as a part of the game. I imagine only the diehards as it's not the most entertaining sport in the world...
I don't think it's the fights though. They're mostly just hugging. I think the checks are what do the damage.
There is certainly a growing awareness of head injuries in Union and League at all levels. Players which show any sign of head trauma are (should be) immediately removed from the field for a 10 minute evaluation. However, having played Union for nearly 20 years (from the age of 14), I can attest to the fact that there are many occasions where a head clash occurs which doesn't result in concussion, but still can't be very healthy.
Besides head injuries, I've required an ACL operation due to Rugby injury. My shoulders and back are also in pretty bad shape. I now have a young son and am really trying to steer him towards cricket rather than Rugby.
The period of constant scrums was an especially dull period, as was the rolling mauls period. I vaguely remember a period of constant punts from each side down the field. I haven't kept up to date with Rugby, but google seems to suggest boring rolling mauls are back.
As an Englishman, I still have to say cricket is one of the most boring sports to play, with only 3 players in a team of 22 doing anything even vaguely interesting at any one time (batter, bowler, wicket keeper, 9 other players are literally sitting doing nothing and 9 others are standing around).
It's less a sport and more an excuse to lounge around.
For all it's faults with prima-donnas, football is one of the most engaging team sports with much less risk of injury than rugby or ball-in-the-face field hockey.
It's heading the ball that's apparently the biggest source of concussive damage in football.
Regarding cricket, this too is an evolving sport. The emergence of T20 (20 overs per team) has a completely different appeal to 5 day Test matches. Try watching a game of Indian Premier League (IPL) or Australian Big Bash cricket. Batting is back in the ascendancy, with sixes and fours galore. Very much mass appeal, light sporting entertainment.
Do you mean Association Football there, ie "soccer"?
While there is a problem with concussions, it's nowhere near the scale of American Handball.
Really? As opposed to what? Polo? Quidditch? Beer pong?
You can think of the difference either as physical or mental.
Physical: The European rink is 100 feet wide while the NHL rink is 85 feet. This gives a lot more space to skate around people rather than through them, more space and time for a passing and placement game, more time for smart play over brute force play.
Mental: Each continent plays hockey as it plays "football". That is soccer vs NFL mentality.
My whining aside, in reality the two hockey cultures have grown closer. NHL teams no longer have full time enforcers, and play is much cleaner, while European hockey has become more "physical", as the goal of everyone is to become an NHL millionaire.
Still, whenever I try to swallow my pride and watch some hockey I get bored. Unless Pavel Datsyuk is playing!
BTW, if you have an iPhone, ask Siri 'Who is the magic man?'. (I don't know if that still works.)
The reason I cannot stop watching football is that the combination of enormous economic incentives and ruthless selection process has produced individuals that are performing at near-superhuman levels. It is arguable that when you watch a quarterback or a cornerback play well in 2017 you are watching someone do something better than anyone has ever done anything.
I find that fascinating and extremely compelling.
Further, this is the reason that I no loner have any interest in college football - the professional game winnows that population down so much and so dramatically that the level of skill is no longer comparable.
Consider: after all of these years and all of this fame and outreach and development, there are still only 8-10 people in the entire world that can competently play the position of starting quarterback. If you can perform this task with even middling competency there is an immediate 8 figure paycheck waiting for you. This (totally arbitrary and otherwise useless) combination of speed, agility, strength, resiliency and lightning-fast-OODA-looping is amazing to watch. And that's just the quarterback ...
I can't get enough of it.
I agree that they are incredible athletes, but I don't see why football's players are better athletes than those in other professional sports. The winnowing process is just as brutal in soccer/football, basketball, hockey, baseball, track, swimming, gymnastics (if you want some incredible athletes - wow), wrestling, boxing, etc. etc. Why is Tom Brady a better athlete than Floyd Mayweather? Than Lionel Messi?
Consider also the fact that many great NBA players were also standout high school football players who gave it up for basketball. You don't really see that happening the other way. NBA players (and soccer players) also have to exercise more continual decision making skills, since there's no stoppage between plays or radios for the coach to signal plays.
I think you do ... I think a large number of professional football players were college baseball players and professional (baseball) prospects.
One of the better known examples being John Elway:
"Elway also excelled as a baseball player. He was selected by the New York Yankees in the second round of the 1981 Major League Baseball draft (52nd overall, six spots ahead of future Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn), and received $150,000 for playing for the Yankees' short season affiliate Oneonta Yankees in the New York–Penn League in the summer of 1982. Yankees scout Gary Hughes believed that had Elway concentrated on baseball "the sky was the limit … he would've been off the charts"."
I am also reminded of Antonio Gates who played for the San Diego Chargers but was a basketball player for Kent State University.
Not to say there isn't creativity in football or baseball, just that those are far more defined by organizational strategy than they are by moment-to-moment creativity by players in the game.
Consider the evolution of the NBA rules over the last few decades:
- Most players routinely carry the ball and get away with it despite it being a core basketball rule. That makes it easier to drive quicker to the basket, evade defenders and score more points which is what the league wants.
- There's way too much flopping/acting to draw fouls. Again - results in more points and the refs favor the stars that drive the league.
- Traveling is rampant and calls are missed all the time. Here's an 8 stepper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VuG1K-LFgY. Here's Westbrook just walking with the ball in hand: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTlHqD45V5s. They don't watch it close enough and it's frustrating because they have favorites and they don't get to review travels. Challenges in football help to fix a lot of critical bad or no calls. From a key NBA ref - "We really don't reference the rulebook" .
NFL defensive schemes make NBA defensive schemes look childish. So I disagree with you on the decision making skills for the two sports. There's a lot more decision making skills required for football especially when someone like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady is running the offense essentially as a player/coach and running audibles/sending guys in motion/disguising plays and each team has highly varied playbooks. A single split second mistake on defense in football is a big deal. On basketball - it rarely affects the outcome.
Now I love both sports and football has suffered from the same initiative of trying to enable more points scored (just like baseball did), but I don't think it's fair to say that NBA players are more talented and athletic either. In fact - you probably won't see a single NBA player stronger or faster than the top performers in the NFL. NFL players regularly outperform NBA on the standing vertical too (2 football players did a 46" standing vert ). So for athleticism - NBA might win on running vertical in some cases/years and in overall conditioning, but they won't win in any speed/standing vertical/any measure of strength (reps or max). So it might be a wash at best for the NBA in athleticism. For talent I'm not sure either way. Can you really compare passing and running the offense between Steph Curry and Tom Brady? Or defense between Kawhi Leonard and Richard Sherman? Saying the NBA has more talent because they are in the game more and play both sides is like saying a full stack developer making more (and working more) has more talent than a more specialized developer.
NFL contracts aren't guaranteed and they're still lower on an annual basis than the NBA. The biggest star QB's in the NFL might be Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, but Brady makes less than the second highest earning player on the Celtics and Rodgers makes less than the highest earning player on the Bucks. NBA minimum contracts are also higher. If you can make it in either league and you want to maximize your earnings, you would be an idiot not to choose the NBA.
Added to this is the fact that there are 450 NBA players in the entire league compared to over 1600 NFL players. That makes it more exclusive almost by definition.
I'm not sure how not calling travels or carries reduces the risk of injury in basketball, but Westbrook did get called for the travel that you linked to.
> NFL defensive schemes make NBA defensive schemes look childish.
Because they only have to last for 2-7 seconds before you have a 40-second break where the coach can radio a new set of instructions. And in the NFL, both offensive and defensive plays are memorized and executed by rote, except for the 2-5 quarterbacks in the league who can adjust or call a different set play by themselves. Even the quarterback isn't redirecting his teammates on the fly the way a point guard does, and no player in football does that kind of work on the defensive end the way Draymond Green does.
I can't believe you're making a serious argument that the NFL requires more athleticism when half the players are morbidly obese and the other half never have to exert themselves for more than five seconds at a time. It's slightly more athletic than baseball, but if NFL players had the athletic ability to outperform NBA players, they would be in the NBA purely out of financial incentive.
> I can't believe you're making a serious argument that the NFL requires more athleticism when half the players are morbidly obese and the other half never have to exert themselves for more than five seconds at a time.
Your definition of athleticism seems to be tightly related to body fat but the definition of the word encompasses much more.
physically active and strong; good at athletics or sports.... of or relating to athletes; involving the use of physical skills or capabilities, as strength, agility, or stamina: 
So you're saying this guy can't be as athletic as Kevin Durant because he's 330 pounds? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linval_Joseph.
You're also picking the lineman to try and make your point but there's 53 roster spots per team. You aren't going to see anyone in the NBA run a 4.24 40 like Chris Johnson or bench press 500+ pounds. Really any measure of strength. Or enter track and field in the Olympics.
> NFL players had the athletic ability to outperform NBA players, they would be in the NBA purely out of financial incentive
That would assume they actually cared about the NBA. It's not a loss to get in the NFL instead of the NBA, esp. if you come from a poor background like many of the players.
Your argument, if applied to technology, would mean that developers making more money in a certain technology are more skilled than people in other languages for the sheer fact that money is the determining factor of all skills. And anyone that goes into the lower income field is less capable and idiots for doing so. That's ridiculous.
Since the NBA is so much more exclusive than the NFL, you're right. Very few can, and all of those who can end up in the NBA.
It's not just the pay difference. NFL players have higher risk of injury, shorter careers on average, non-guaranteed contracts, significantly less potential earning power in terms of endorsements...
If you're a first round NBA draft prospect, you have a guaranteed multi-million dollar contract even if you blow an ACL and never play a single game. You know by the time you're a college freshman whether you're in that category, because the NBA drafts college freshmen. The only point where it's a more rational decision to go for football is if you're already not a top basketball prospect...which more or less proves my point about that.
> You aren't going to see anyone in the NBA run a 4.24 40 like Chris Johnson or bench press 500+ pounds. Really any measure of strength. Or enter track and field in the Olympics.
NFL players are specialized enough that an NBA player wouldn't match them on any single metric, but on a combination of metrics the NBA player would come ahead. For example, I don't believe any NFL player would score higher than Russell Westbrook or LeBron James in the Olympic decathlon.
Also, Wilt Chamberlain could complete a 100 yard dash in 10 seconds and bench 500 pounds, albeit at slightly different moments in his career. He also competed in track and field at the collegiate level.
In that rare case yes you'd be dumb to take the NFL over the NBA for the reasons you listed. It's based on the NBA's contract rules, not that the contracts are commensurate with athleticism or talent as you suggest. Your argument doesn't illustrate that NBA players are more athletic and talented than the NFL though.
> I don't believe any NFL player would score higher than Russell Westbrook or LeBron James in the Olympic decathlon.
Well I disagree and we can look at history for more evidence:
- Milt Campbell won gold in the Olympics decathalon 
- Jim Thorpe won the decathalon and pentathalon. Considered one of the greatest athletes ever. 
- Darrell Green ran a 4.43 forty at the age of 50 . His best was 4.15 and he had an official 10.08 100m. "Darrell Green was so fast that when they had a competition in different events (baserunning, track, 40 yd dash) Green wiped the floor with rivals, including nine time Olympic medalist Carl Lewis.... while Green never beat him in track competitions (they ran against each other in college), Lewis points out that Green was a world class sprinter, and again really fast." 
- Glenn Davis won Olympic titles in the 400 meter hurdles twice. Davis was either at or close to world records in many events including: 100 yards/meters (9.6/10.3), 200 meters (21.0), the half mile (1:52), 120 yard high hurdles (14.0), 200 meter low hurdles on curve (22.5 WR), 400 meter intermediate hurdles (49.2 WR), high jump (6-8), and long jump (24'8"). 
Kind of fun looking some of this stuff up. I learned that Carl Lewis was drafted by both the NBA and the NFL even though he never played in either sport. 
The NFL has a variety of Olympic wins including: decathalon, pentathalon, freestyle skiing, bobsled, hurdles, various sprint, shot put, long jump. 
The NBA's history in the Olympics is nearly non-existant. The only one I could find was Marion Jones (1 yr WNBA) and Carl Lewis (NFL & NBA as noted above but didn't play a game in either).
"Better than anyone has ever done anything" is debatable, but those young NFL men sure can smite their foes!
Homer sparked that idea, and the Romans perfected popular gladiatorial combat in front of 50,000 spectators in the Colosseum.
But it just got so damn messy, spectator-wise, when "enormous economic incentives" led to mass state wars with 10,000, 50,000, or 6,000,000 million dead.
My personal favorite public spectacle combat is Slim Pickens riding the H-bomb in Dr. Strangelove. Now that was "amazing to watch"!
But back to pro sports, using the Olympics as an example. I notice that the rise of intersex/gender-uncertain competitors such as Caster Semenya is challenging the status quo of sex-differentiated mass sporting events. Maybe more people will just throw up their hands at the hypocrisy of it all?
And if the Olympics come under question, who knows what other multi-billion-dollar sporting series might be next?
But please, Olympics, leave the modern pentathlon as-is. And the sailing and equestrian events. But consider adding a gliding competition :-)
Non-contact hockey players are three times less likely to be severely injured and three times less likely to be concussed while playing. That's the direction hockey should be going, IMO. Contact is fun and all but I know too many people who are seriously messed up from concussions--I'm glad my parents put me in a non-contact league.
My biggest issue by far is how embedded football is into our public school system. They are essentially feeder leagues for the NFL that the public pays to operate. We glorify the sport to little kids and then shove them into the head trauma pipeline.
We should absolutely not be a party to that at the public level. I'm aware of the issues with drawing a line on dangerous sports, but I'm sure something a ton of people can agree on is that wherever the line ends up, football is on the wrong side of it. It's position is relative to the line.
Could you imagine if our schools and home cultures emphasized putting that kind of work into math rather than football?
But the kids' sports become part of the parents' ego and there's no going back. Source: am parent of three almost grown boys. Two were sports kids, one is not.
Hopefully the game can change and adapt, I feel like the longer they drag their heels, the more likely it is to just completely collapse.
Otherwise, I always thought the concussion aspect was much less worst in the NHL than NFL, but maybe im wrong about that...
That, to me, sounds like anarchy on the ice. Like the game is either impossible to properly referee or the referees are incompetent or the refs simply have been told to ignore a certain level of violence.
Why are scuffles around the net tolerated? They are disgraceful. Almost every game you will see someone get punched or cross checked in the face with no consequence, as long as it's after the whistle or the victim is an asshole. Which leads to my next point.
Why is general assholery tolerated and even celebrated? There is a thing called sportsmanship and there is none of it in the NHL until they put someone on a stretcher. They bang their stick on the boards for 5 seconds then it's open season for the other guy.
Why are fights only 5 minutes penalty? Any other sport they would get suspended for even half attempting to punch someone. The NHL and PA say it's some sort of anarchy-on-ice bullshit but we all know it's because it sells tickets and have otherwise poor players make the cut.
There is plenty of sportsmanship in the NHL. Almost every fight is between willing participants who discuss it first to ensure the other party isn't playing with an injury or something. Handshake lines after playoff series when you just spent the past week and a half playing the same opponent every other day. There is plenty of shit talking from the benches, but wingers will typically shoot the shit a bit when lining up for faceoffs.
Why is fighting only a 5 minute penalty? Because see above about "dem da rules". Fighting has always been a part of the game, and has fallen dramatically in the past few years. Players don't tend to get head injuries from fights, and when they do its because they fell awkwardly and hit the ice with their head. The hits that are borderline dirty or overly aggressive just aren't there, knowing that you might have to put up for a fight for giving the hit. Those hits are the ones that are causing the injuries. From behind, sending your opponent face first into the boards. Lining up the big hit from across the ice. Steve Moore jumping on Tood Bertuzzi's back and driving his head into the ice. Those are the plays that have lasting affects.
I think the football solution is to force players smaller again. One way to accomplish this is to weight pun salary caps by body weight. The sport can keep its old aspects.
Maybe, but what we're discovering is that concussions aren't the only problem: you can get CTE even from the repeated sub-concussive hits that linemen get constantly. By focusing on concussions the NFL is dodging the issue.
Hockey helmets are different than a football helmet. For starters, the shell of a hockey helmet is much softer than that of a football helmet. This can help to attenuate some of the energy from a hit. The other huge difference is the mass of the helmet. Hockey helmets are light compared to a football helmet.
Another large difference between the sports is the rules covering head contact. While it is illegal in both sports to hit with your head, football tends to see a much higher rate of "incidental" contact. Hockey players are not taking hits to the head every play
Edit: Minor Typos
And the rates of CTE in former NHL players aren't exactly low. 9 of 16 (albeit a small sample) showed signs of CTE.
The thing they don't seem to get(The NFL) is that most people don't care about the hits and they could eliminate them. I'd watch highly skilled athletes from my university or city play FLAG FOOTBALL at the highest levels of skill and athleticism as often or more often than I watch them now.
We need to think a bit about why people watch team sport as a society and realize that if flag football was the highest level we'd ever known we probably wouldn't lose a viewer.
Skills are skills and team rivalries and rooting interests remain regardless of whether its hockey or football or whatever.
Where it ends for me is the helmet to helmet contact, when defensive players leverage or launch themselves head first into another player's head, because they want to injure that player or get into a highlight reel. I don't see how anyone can enjoy seeing someone laid out on the field unconscious.
Soccer is really huge in many parts of the world.
The fighting isn't what causes damage in hockey no more than fighting in the NFL is what causes damage. It is just the physical nature of the sport.
> I enjoy the stick work, the dangling and skills getting to the net.
My friend says the same thing, but the truth is that he is a racist who hate the NFL because it is "too black" and he suddenly loves hockey because he can "relate" to it.
Both hockey and football are dangerous. Even soccer is dangerous. Nevermind MMA and boxing.
Without a doubt, football/hockey/boxing/mma/etc are all highly violent. The question is should we care and if we do, what do we do about it.
I'm not sure what the NFL does that's wrong. Their players get significant fame, are consenting adults, and get pay checks that many would trade even more of their health for. It is the college level, and especially the high school level, that I see the major problems at. When you have kids, or even people who aren't paid, risking their health it crosses a significant line. If college players were paid, and if playing below 18 (or even 16) was banned, it wouldn't be a big problem for me.
Edit: As someone else pointed out, the suppressing information is wrong. I wasn't considering that side of things.
1) NFL knew about the risks and hid them and in some cases deliberately deceived the players about said risks. I seem to recall that only a couple years ago the NFL told the players that with adequate rest, there will be no long-lasting effects from a concussion -- something that has been shown to not be the case.
2) The NFL will go after anyone who releases medical research raising questions about football and CTE. And I don't mean just refuting the evidence, they've gone after the doctors and scientists personally
I don't fault any player in the NFL for wanting the fame and fortune, or playing. But they should also receive all the information that's available as to the risks and dangers associated with playing so they can make their own decision.
Fast forward a few months after the exchanges, she was included on an email from that family friend where the they complained that they should've known better to work on this research and that they were enraged that the conclusions were being suppressed / minimized.
There is a movie (biopic not totally accurate) : Concussion
I don't think that's a particularly strong stance to take. The NFL has been fairly active in trying to dismiss or ignore this evidence. They are not merely standing by the sidelines.
One recent thing the NFL has done is bullied NIH researchers in concussion research in order to divert funding to their own NFL researchers. Serious questions have been raised about the independence of those researchers. It's like Big Tobacco all over again.
There have been a number of other instances where the NFL has tried to discredit or hide concussion research that details how dangerous Football is. 
Besides paying their players, the NFL actively targets kids and amateurs through marketing. They buy the merchandise and become long term fans. By hiding and dismissing the concussion research they are choosing profits over safety.
All of this would be okay if the true dangers of football were fully transparent. Adults can consent to risks when they know the risks they are facing. In this case, the NFL has hidden that risk.
Given that scenario as stated? Sure, I'm all for it. Take away the gloves in boxing and we're pretty close to that.
I'd be concerned about the negative incentives that could potentially exploit lower income people, but on its own I don't have a problem with it.
I personally wouldn't do it, and I don't think I'd enjoy watching it, but I'm of the opinion that:
1. If it occurs a lot, there is a market for it,
2. Given a market for it, we should explore allowing and heavily regulating it, including negative externalities, rather than banning it and pushing it to a black market.
So, while companies should have workers' comp and provide helmets on the job, it doesn't mean that the risk needs to be zero. Dangerous jobs tend to be well-compensated, so it either comes down to risk tolerance or cultural factors (something like "my father was a miner and I live in coal country") more than desperation.
Could you cite some evidence that this is a widespread attitude? My knowledge of miners, which is very little, says something much different.
> Dangerous jobs tend to be well-compensated
I'm not sure that's true. In the list of high-paying jobs that money-motivated people aspire to, I usually don't see coal miner (or any miner), soldier, police officer in dangerous neighborhood, logger, deep sea fisherman or drug dealer listed.
If we are talking where death is a risk but not a definite, then we do allow such jobs. At what point do you consider the harm too bad to allow and would we really consistently apply that standard?
Everyone is a consenting adult, I'm not saying "letting people tackle each other" is criminal or unethical. (Though as you say, mandatory football in gym class would be a different story.) The only thing here that ought to be legally actionable is knowingly hiding risks.
But we're talking about a spectator sport. I think a lot of people would feel sort of queasy if they saw a "good hit" and thought "wow, that guy just got a bit of brain damage". It's pretty reasonable to say "I want to see people perform challenging athletics, I don't want to see them destroy their minds". So the NFL might 'deserve' to fail because of this no matter how open and transparent they are.
Also, the biggest tackles I experienced playing first-grade union for the Gold Coast dolphins (before I stopped to become a referee) didn't hurt! A perfectly executed powerful tackle stops you in your tracks, looks amazingly impressive, but was reasonably safe.
You're much more likely to get a head injury from either an illegal tackle (that'd result in a red card, removal from the game and a "trial" of sorts before a tribunal) or from being at the bottom of a ruck and being stepped/stomped on
Because they suppressed evidence?
In addition to the other comments about suppressing information. They have led you to believe this is the case. You should really find out how compensation in the NFL works because it is mindblowing. Do they get paid more than most bluecollar jobs? Absolutely.
A lot of NFL contracts are back loaded and the NFL tries everything in their power to make sure their players don't see the full payout. Most of the non-famous players are paid weekly and can be cut at any time.
MLB and NBA players have much stronger protections when it comes to salary.
As for fame, which players get significant fame? Every team has over fifty guys on their roster - how many of those could ever be named by a random member of the public who isn't a diehard fan of that same team? The linemen are the ones that cop the brunt of the big hits - how many linemen ever get known by name?
Because often the offers are made and accepted when the person is underage and the collusion to keep there being no pay. If colleges didn't get involved at all until people were 18 and players were paid I wouldn't have an issue.
It is like the difference between a college student who meets and dates an older individual vs a college student who dates someone who knew and groomed them while they were still a child. Both may be legal, but far more people will be appalled at the second one.
This feels like post-hoc reasoning, given that the parents are involved, and that the person can also stop, transfer, whatever on their own later on.
> while they were still a child
Referring to 17-year-olds as 'children' is simply being disingenuous. You can join the army at 17.
The second statement in no way supports the first.
Not to mention (1) many players don't actually get paid that well; (2) careers are often quite short; (3) unless you're a liar, you understand what happens when a player gets hurt but if they don't play, they don't get paid... Surprising no-one who doesn't work for the NFL, players play hurt. Or hide concussions.
If HS and CFB didn't exist, there would be no NFL, because it would mean that everyone stopped caring about football.
(Disclosure: I live near Pittsburgh; even though I never played, the sport runs deep in the roots of the area!)
The RedSkins can't fill their stadium in a major market. Try to get Alabama tickets ... or NotreDame ... or Penn State all in minuscule markets.
Years ago the Redskins always filled- they've just sucked for so long people find better things to do with their Sundays (disclaimer-am a fan from long time back).
The Patriots on the other hand now fill their stadium (I live in the Boston area now). They didn't use to do that.
So it may depend on how well the team is doing.
EDIT: Except for Tennessee. Those fans are crazy.
Children should not be doing this, ever.
The NHL has done away with this and has "no touch icing" where the d-man only has to skate to the hash marks (middle of the circles), that's removed a considerable amount of the high-speed collisions
The other thing that is hard to capture statistically, is that teams used to have big guys that rarely would see much ice time. Now you have many legit skilled players at 220+ pounds who are regulars.
2. Willingly works 5 years in the factory, makes $10,000, has 50% chance of reduced health in the future.
Why does the first situation bother us so much more than the second? Most products we use are built via the second, but you're probably still using those products. The NFL seems like better employment than Foxconn, and I'll still use an Apple computer.
People make sacrifices all the time, if someone wants to willingly do it as a professional, why not?
College football players need to be paid fair market value.
That's right. A fucking high school stadium.
That school bond issues, which are voted on directly by residents of a school district, are the main funding mechanism for school construction in Texas goes a long way towards explaining the ridiculous stadiums.
Below is an interesting article I read that describes the day of a d1 football player at a top school. Note, it is a 15 hour day and only includes 1.5 hours of studying which wouldn't be enough to even cover hw for most engineering degrees.
You can't fairly describe it as "willingly do it" if they don't have all the facts, and the other party to the transaction is intentionally hiding facts that make it look worse.
And as for the factory worker, it does bother us a great deal. Dangerous working conditions get a ton of attention, and attempts to cover up workplace dangers are criticized severely.
And people raise issues with buying goods from countries with lower standards all the time.
I would say it is at least as big an issue in the public consciousness as the danger to the players of professional sports.
Under the OSH Act, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace. OSHA's mission is to assure safe and healthful workplaces by setting and enforcing standards, and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. Employers must comply with all applicable OSHA standards. Employers must also comply with the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, which requires employers to keep their workplace free of serious recognized hazards.
Wearing protective helmets just ups the ante as players launch into each other with full force. In rugby, you don't tackle someone like that as you'll hurt yourself, and fail to stop the opponent.
Rugby is a plenty violent sport, and has its own health issues, but the lack of protective helmets and body armour (and rules preventing tackling without using your arms) means that attacking players think about their own safety before launching ridiculously high impact hits on each other.
At he elite level a player who is suspected of having taken a significant knock to the head can be substituted off the field for 10 minutes to be assessed by a doctor. The referee, assistant referees, sideline medics or the television match official can make the get the player off the field and to the medic. Players almost always want to play on after a knock so the decision is left to officials who may have seen or heard a head impact. If a player fails the assessment then they do not return to the field and further tests will be performed after the match. If the player passes then the substitution is reversed. If an incident is missed during a game then an assessment can be ordered after reviewing a recording of the game.
The laws of rugby also include clauses about contact with the head, tipping a player onto their head, or knocking a jumping player in such a way as to make them land on their head.
Rugby players are getting bigger and faster and the hits are getting commensurately more energetic. Rugby is trying to keep players safe. Whether these measures help remains to be seen but I think the governing bodies take player safety pretty seriously.
One interesting stat that I heard is that one of the things that seems to be inversely correlated with head injury is neck strength so we may see more players training their already powerful necks.
When I started playing Rugby Union back in 1989 as a teenager (League in 1986 for a couple of seasons) I was always taught to do neck exercises before training and playing. I was also encouraged to continue these exercises in my own time to build overall neck strength.
I'm sure this training has been around for a long time before that too.
Boxing gloves are huge and massively padded, meaning you take hit after hit after hit, bouncing your brain around like a ball. MMA gloves are only padded enough to maybe prevent you from breaking your knuckles, and maybe prevent your knuckles from breaking someone's jaw. If you threw the kind of punches people throw in boxing with MMA gloves on, you'd wreck your hands.
That one is safer than the other has been discussed before:
MMA fighters often wreck their hands during fights. They are in no way pulling their punches; they throw as hard as they can, just as boxers do.
I find it plausible that MMA fights tend to end with less concussions and serious head trauma than boxing. But I doubt it's significantly safer. That ignores training, where fighters spend much more time, and still receive many, many sub-concussive hits.
I have trained BJJ for over 13 years. During that time, I have also trained MMA. I have helped training partners for MMA matches. I have cornered training partners for MMA matches. I follow professional MMA. But I am finding myself more and more unable to justify even paying attention to it because of the evidence that even repeated sub-concussive hits cause brain damage.
Incidents of cte for instance in soccer maybe accounted for by heading drills. Which is why talks about concussions isn't enough.
I'd still expect MMA to be safer in this regard than boxing but there is enough head banging events in things like gaurd practice that don't occur during normal boxing practice that I wouldn't be shocked to learn MMA has as serious a problem with CTE as boxing.
However, as someone else commented, there are some crucial differences with football:
- there's no injury unless it's an actual fight. Sparring is intentionally toned down, because the sport is not about the power but agility and speed. Those can be practiced with minimal danger (of course there are always exceptions and accidents);
- there's the benefit of transparency. Hits may be heavier but are fewer and much farther apart than the repeated hits in football which may go unnoticed.
People handwaving around how much worse it gets under x or y circumstance just don't like the way the math adds up: brain injury is cumulative and progressive regardless of severity, age, repetition, or any other factor.
Of course there are always flaws, limitations, and contradictory evidence in these studies, but at least it is more worthwile than the eyeball test.
I'd guess its likely that American football as played in the NFL is a very different game to the one played by kids, and there might be virtually no correlation of actual risks.
Rugby is also very different between kids and professionals of course - my 5 yr old plays ripper rugby which involves no contact tackling but instead ripping a velcro tag off the opposing player. Great fun to watch!
We have flag football in the US for younger kids, sounds roughly analogous to ripper rugby.
In american football, one inch anywhere on the field can make the difference between four more downs or having to kick the ball away.
Agreed, but funny thing is the protection has gradually developed over time to limit injury. American football used to be played with no protection, then with very limited protection, leather helmets, pads. Then hard helmets, armored pads. Etc.
Kind of an arms race, as with increased protection, the hits keep getting harder.
Unintended consequences of trying to reduce harm.
EDIT: I realize we're talking long term vs short term, but I wasn't able to find pre-compiled data comparing timelines of major advances in football pads and injury rates.
In fact the disease most discussed and studied has been Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE. The position most likely (nearly 50%) to be affected are the linemen, not the guys leveling or receiving the bone crushing hits, but the guys doing the hum drum blocking on every play.
The positions reporting the most concussions though are the guys who are doing the hitting and being hit, the guys with the ball and tackling him. But these guys get the big hits rarely as players are subbed in and out and the ball is given to different players all the time. If they get a concussion it is obvious and are usually pulled from the game.
Linemen on the other hand, are consistently in every play, and are blocking on every single play. They may be getting minor concussions every play, but not something noticeable enough to be pulled from the game.
This actually means there might be hope. The game could be modified to reduce the impact on the linemen. Reduce the distance the defense has to back off from the line of scrimmage, maybe even right down to zero or even a straight-up scrum. No lead-up to that first hit, they start out in contact. No lunge forward to close the gap between offence and defense.
Same gameplay happens - two lines of men trying to break through/protect the QB, but without that initial impact because they're already in a wrestling position.
That said they cant all of a sudden change the gear but they can evolve the rules to adapt.
Players are bigger, faster, and more powerful because that makes them better players. Not because equipment has evolved. It's the training of the athletes that has evolved.
Perhaps it's just selection, but I'm wondering if it is rules requiring tackling above the waist, but it seems like every hit on that vid caused no leg injury; no knees got bend backwards, or jammed sideways, and they seemed to invariably fall with bent knees (which is protective as the leg can rotate with the force rather than tear ligaments). The hands, however, seemed to be often at risk.
Is this the case? If so, was the rule ever changed for improved safety, or just ~always that way?
In rugby a goal is to always keep the ball in possession. When you are tackled, you try and feed the ball back to your own side, who are (ideally) close behind you in support.
So yeah - yardage gain is somewhat meaningless for its own sake in rugby, as long as you maintain possession. If you maintain possession, the other team can never score, and you eventually will.
So the player's thoughts as they are tackled are less about preserving yardage and more about ensuring you'll end up in a position where you can feed the ball back to your teammates to maintain possession. Maybe that means less impact in the tackle.
In rugby if you run at someone they'll step sideways and you'll go past. In American football that I've seen they run right at each other, on purpose. You can't hammer straight at someone flat out and still be able to adjust your trajectory to account for a side-step. (Though Union is getting more like League now in the silly, endless, rucking which is TBH more like NFL).
In NFL they have plays of average ~4s, adding up to ~11 minutes across a 3½hr game time with regular changes of players using a massive team [see my other post for source]. In Rugby Union (UK) it's longer plays adding up to 45 minutes of ball-in-play across 90 minutes game duration (80 + 10 mins of half-time) with 15 players on pitch per team and up to 8 subs.
Bulk and running speed/stamina tend to oppose each other.
Between the tackles and other close quarters situations, running “north and south” or “downhill” is the best strategy. From early ages, coaches will discourage running backs behind the line of scrimmage juking, stutter stepping, wiggling their heads, and otherwise not gaining yardage by shouting “Quit dancin’ and hit the hole!”