Concussion Sunday

by Josh Burkholder – “SportStance” Columnist

Everybody knows that football is a violent sport, and injuries occur regularly.  Every time a team takes the field, all of the players are risking their health.  For the most part, these injuries are definitely not life-threatening or career-ending; the players just need a couple of days or weeks to recover.  Concussions, however, are a different story.

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler lays on the field after receiving a blow to the head on the previous play. Source: chicagotribune.com

Concussions can occur usually either when a tackler hits an opponent hard in the head with a part of their body, or when a player is slammed to the ground and has their head snapped back into the turf.  Concussions can have a lasting impact, even causing problems for players for the rest of their lives.  More often than not it is an offensive player that receives this type of injury, because they are the ones with the ball, so that the defense wants to hit them usually as hard as possible.

Last Sunday in particular, concussions have been hitting the NFL hard.  Three starting quarterbacks got knocked out of their games with a lot of time left to play.  They included Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles, Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers, and Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears.  Cutler supposedly even played one snap after he received his concussion, and was hit again in the head on that next play.  The facts that Cutler stayed in the game after the initial hard hit, and that the tackler, Tim Dobbins of the Houston Texans, was allowed to continue playing even though it was obvious that his hit had been a cheap shot have really stirred up some strong feelings towards the NFL.

As you can imagine, this is and has been a huge controversy in pro football.  Player safety has been one of the main concerns across the NFL in the last few years.  So much time is spent watching game tapes and fining players for intentional and illegal hard hits, as well as multiple training and warning seminars.  Yet this has not seemed to have any effect, because we still have this glaring problem.

To me, the NFL has had great intentions in trying to prevent these concussions, and can continue to do what they are doing, such as fining players after unnecessary hits.  In my opinion though, people need to back off a little bit on all this complaining about the lack of player safety.  The hard hits are just part of the game.  If we continue to make new rules and limit what players are able to do defensively, the league is going to become soft and lose a lot of its appeal.  Players should know what they are signing up for when they sign their contract.  They know the risks and what could potentially happen, so it is all their decision to assume those risks.  Yes, it is horrible to see players leave games not knowing where they even are, but football is their job.  It is all up to them whether to play or not, so they should have to deal with whatever consequences may occur from their actions.

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