I could spend the next 600 or so words talking about whatever you call what we watched Saturday afternoon (I’m told that was supposed to be football), but I’m not. We all know what happened and it is just not worth the effort.
However, I am going to stay on the topic of football. Something far more serious than the Badgers losing to Oregon State and subsequently falling from the AP rankings took place on the field this weekend.
During a game on Saturday, Tulane safety Devon Walker collided with a teammate while trying to make a tackle. Walker stopped breathing immediately, CPR was performed and he was removed from the field in an ambulance. He was taken to a hospital where it was discovered that he has suffered a fractured spine resulting from a helmet-to-helmet collision.
Stories like this one are not uncommon in football today at every level. As athletes become stronger and faster, serious injuries to the back, neck and head are increasing.
According to statfox.com, in the 2012 college football season 11 players are already out due to back injuries, five due to neck injuries and six due to head injuries, including Walker. The majority of these players are out either indefinitely or for the rest of the season, while some have even left football all together.
Another 14 athletes are out with concussions. We have only had two weeks of college football.
You can look at these injuries and think “he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.” That is not true. Yes, there is an aspect of bad luck involved in these injuries, but many of them are cause by improper techniques which are often taught by coaches.
There are many people who still believe in the old school, Lombardi style of football. Go out on the field, hit hard and be hit hard back. If you get shaken up, you are doing it right. Sure this style of football worked at one point in the NFL, but we are now talking college kids, high school kids and youth players.
If you think that head and back injuries like the one Walker suffered Saturday only happen at and above the college level, you could not be further from the truth.
Donnovan Hill was 13 years old and the star running back for the Lakeland Lancers, a Pop Warner team in Mission Viejo, Calf. After a helmet-to-helmet collision while playing defense, Hill fractured his spine and became paralyzed from the neck down.
An investigation conducted by ESPN’s Outside the Lines revealed that Hill and his teammates were instructed to hit head down and head first by their head coach, who has been known to tell players to “stop being scared” and make the hit.
This injury was a direct result of a coach teaching the wrong way to hit. These were youth athletes playing for Pop Warner, safety ought to have been the number one concern. If one coach was teaching to hit head first, you can be certain that more are at every level of competition.
Hill’s injury, and undoubtedly Walker’s in the future, has brought to the attention of many inside and outside the sport the need to protect the players.
Football has to change, it is that simple. The safety of the players at every level needs to be the concern. Whether that change comes through the form of additional rules, shifting of coaching mentalities or harsher penalties on and off the field, the sport has got to change.
The people who still preach this Lombardi style of football need to pull their heads out of the ass and focus on the real issue here: the safety of the players. There is no telling how long it will be before a young athlete not only suffers a serious injury but loses their life if football does not change.
Is football becoming too dangerous for athletes of all ages? Do you think new rules need to be created to ensure player safety? Email Matthew and let him know what you think at email@example.com