Former NFL player Nate Jackson’s commentary in today’s New York Times underscores the crisis that football faces over concussions and their lasting effects. The league’s crackdown on unnecessary roughness will accomplish almost nothing, Jackson argues. And needless to say, it is worthless with respect to college, high-school and youth football.
It may seem unimaginable today, but I honestly believe we may be at the beginning stages of a national shift that could relegate football to the margins, like boxing. With permanent after-effects, including dementia, a not-uncommon outcome, who would want their sons to risk such a fate if they fully understood the danger?
I’m not a football fan, but I don’t dislike it. I’ll watch a few games a year, depending on how the Patriots are doing. So don’t take this as an anti-football screed. I just think it’s become clear that the sport is too dangerous.
A couple of days ago, on MSNBC, I watched Gregg Easterbrook show Chuck Todd a super-high-tech new helmet that’s supposed to offer greater protection. But will that really help? Won’t players hit even harder?
Given all that, I wonder how the game might change if the NFL were to take a radical step like returning to 1940s-style gear — that is, leather helmets and minimal padding. As Jackson points out, it’s the helmets that allow players to turn their heads into a weapon. Combined with a common-sense weight limit of, say, 250 pounds, it might just make football safe enough to play.