Butting heads

(Zachary Schiller/YH Staff)

With all the excitement of football comes the inevitable risk of head injuries. A concussion occurs when a blow to the head or a rapid deceleration causes the brain to slosh around and knock against the bony surface of the skull. This might not sound like such a huge deal, but in the context of football, the potential for brain injury is particularly high. In a Fox Sports Science experiment this year, experts measured the force of Kassim Osgood, a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, running into a moving crash test dummy in order to simulate a real tackle under game conditions. The researchers found that the takedown involved 1800 pounds of force; they noted that this impact is equivalent to the effect of ten athletic mascots jumping on one person’s chest at once. The problem is particularly troubling for its frequency, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) says—they found that about 300,000 of these injuries occur each year in high school, college, and professional football. Furthermore, the AANS warns, the risk of concussion in football is three to six times higher in players who have had a previous concussion. It gets worse—in a CDC study of nine high school sports, football was discovered to have the highest rates of concussions, with 0.47 per 1000 athlete exposures. The NCAA has responded by changing rules and policies to improve player safety, focusing attention on stopping hits on defenseless players and blows to the head. It also outlawed the horse-collar tackle, a particularly risky move, and banned players from initiating contact and targeting an opponent with the crown of their helmets or targeting a defenseless opponent above the shoulders. Whether these changes will have any effects remains to be seen, but experts agree that the thrill of the game needs to come at a lower price.

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