Thursday, October 21, 2010

Using Your Head

"If I get a chance to knock somebody out, I'm going to knock them out and take what they give me. They give me a helmet, I'm going to use it." --Dolphins Linebacker Channing Crowder

I'm sure that many of you who read this article probably laughed at Crowder's comments and brushed him off as being as idiot. And yes, Channing Crowder is an idiot. But unintentionally, Crowder makes a great point.

As most of you know, the NFL has recently made a point of cracking down on helmet-to-helmet hits with the intention of reducing the number of head injuries that result from them. And the reason for this is simple -- as Crowder indicated, players are using their helmets as weapons, not safety devices.

When I played football in high school (albeit not very well), I was a defensive lineman. We had an offensive lineman on our team who would come off the snap with the goal of thrusting his helmet right into your facemask. Needless to say, going against him sucked, and most of the time, you ended up going home after practice with a ringing headache. But he was a good lineman, and his method was pretty effective.

Now I know that this type of helmet-to-helmet hit isn't the same as a receiver and a defensive back, both running at full speed, colliding, and that the league isn't looking to crack down on linemen hitting each other with their helmets, but I'm using this to make a point -- a helmet makes a great weapon. You put a shell on your head and a hard mask over your face, and you'll use it with the idea that you can't get hurt. 

So what can the NFL do? It can start suspending people, but as Channing Crowder indicated, there will still be players who keep doing what they've been doing. A suspension isn't going to deter them. Still, I think I have a simple solution: get rid of the hard-shelled helmet.

I think that players would be much less likely to throw themselves at someone like a projectile (as Brandon Merriweather did last weekend) if they weren't wearing helmets. You're not supposed to tackle the way that Merriweather does, but NFL players do, simply because it's effective. Would a player be as likely to lower his head and go recklessly into an opponent if he was wearing a Petr Cech-style helmet?

I say no. The statistic that people like to throw around is that there aren't as many serious head injuries in rugby, even though they're not wearing helmets. Sure, this may mean more injuries such as facial cuts and broken noses, but isn't that a much better problem to have than a spate of concussions that affect the brains of NFL players for the rest of their lives?

Now I'm pretty sure that the league that would never go for something like this, but as a whole, I think getting rid of hard-shelled helmets would make the game safer. Players would be forced to tackle by squaring up and trying to put their shoulders through another player's midsection, not by recklessly throwing themselves headfirst at their opponent.

If a child uses a toy to hurt other kids, you usually end up taking it away from him. If the NFL keeps giving Channing Crowder a helmet, he's going to try to keep hurting other players. Maybe they shouldn't give him that option.


  1. I 100% agree. Look at the "biggest" hits ever in rugby. About 1/3 would qualify as jacked up:

    And the go-to link on the craziness that is modern football is Gladwell in the NYer:

  2. side note: channing crowder absolutely HATES the ravens. and guess who was on the recieving end of that merriweather hit last weekend? interesting coincidence.