Safety first when it comes to football
There are 4,000 pending lawsuits against the NFL because of injuries sustained while playing football. It will take years before action is taken, one way or another.
More pressing is the issue of head injuries at all levels of football. Many people have ideas how to take care of player's heads. This article is written to give people an idea of what's going on. I'm not an M.D. or scientist or expert, just a retired football coach that wants to throw his two cents in.
First and foremost, players at all levels today are bigger, faster and stronger than ever before. Ten years from now, players' strength and speed will increase. It is the goal of every coach to make players that way. They spend billions on equipment and teaching to improve their players. Little, slower and weaker are not in a coach's or player's vocabulary.
Maybe the human body is not created to withstand the types of collisions we see on T.V. I don't know, ask your doctor. Maybe there will be rule changes that try to take the head out of play. Tough to do when 22 people are trying to maim each other on every play.
If you watch football on T.V., you have seen the number of flags thrown for hits to the head area. Don't be surprised if the only contact zone becomes below the shoulders.
Commentators and purists sometimes scoff at all the penalty flags. It is natural because it is the way football was taught for years. Our fathers and grandfathers grew up understanding smoking was not bad for your health either.
A few things have been done at the professional levels besides penalties. Part of the agreement between the players union and the NFL states there will be no more than one day a week in practice where full contact is permitted. It was an item not mentioned often, but could have repercussions at all levels of football. It was so important that NFL players would strike immediately if any coaches or owners didn't agree.
What about high school players and lower level football players? In my opinion, the most important point in prevention of injuries is teaching proper fundamentals. The old adage, “stick your face mask in his sternum,” will be completely out the window. Blockers that lead with their heads will be penalized. Chop blocking maybe totally eliminated. Crack back block might only be permitted below the shoulder pads and above the waist.
Maybe John McKay, the great USC coach, had the answer. During his tenure as coach during the 1960s and '70s, he practiced an odd procedure. After pre-season, no one had full contact except in games.Believe it or not, he did win a couple of national championships. Naysayers will point out that running back O.J. Simpson, Marcus Allen and Sam “The Bam” Cunningham were treasured possessions. Maybe he didn't want his defense called the “Wild Bunch” to mangle any SC player, who knows?
The future will hold changes for football. Some will like it and others will not. All this columnist has to say is, “Let's be as safe as we can.” Remember, our parents had to learn, “seat belts saves lives.”
John Blabe is the former athletic director and football coach for Antelope Union High School. He can be reached at email@example.com.