The NFL is making a lot of changes this off-season in an attempt to fight the brain injury problem plaguing their current and former players. First, they announced they would add neurologists to their sideline medical team for better immediate diagnosis, which we now know will also be aided by special iPad apps. Then, the NFL announced their huge partnership with G.E. to fund research into traumatic brain injury and how to prevent it.
Now, the NFL has made their first change to the way the game is actually played, showing they are serious about protecting their players and the league is willing to make small changes to the sport in favor of less brain injuries.
Last week, NFL owners approved a rule banning hits with the crown of the helmet outside of the tackle box, or the area between the two teams’ offensive tackles.
Runners and defenders are no longer allowed to purposely lower their heads before tackles, in order to strike their opponent with the hard surface of the helmet. The penalty for breaking the rule will be a 15-yard penalty from the spot of the foul.
Players are still allowed to use this type of hit within the tack box area of the field, meaning the practice isn’t completely discontinued, but will be more regulated.
Not everyone is happy about the change, however. Current and former players have spoken out against the new rule, such as Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte. Forte tweeted about the change saying “Last time I checked, football was a contact sport,” as well as joking about budgeting for the fines he will get when he ignores the rule.
Running backs like Forte seem to be the most upset about the new rule, which is interesting considering RBs accounted for nearly one in nine player concussions last season, according to PBS.
Hall of Fame running back Emmit Smith also criticized the new rule by stating it “sounds like it’s been made up by people who have never played the game of football.”
One running back is even mournful, as he believes the rule change is “his fault.”
Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson had a huge hit during the first week of the season, where he received a cut under his lower lip and across his nose, but stayed in the game.
Richardson lamented, “I feel like I made it bad for all the backs. I feel like it’s my fault.”
It’s a strange state of affairs when someone is remorseful that they even indirectly improved the safety of their peers.