By Jeffrey Balbi
The National Football League, known for its illustrious history and its players competing at an elite level, have been showing signs of difficulty with the evolution of the game they have been a part of for the sport since its founding nearly 100 years ago. The evolution of football stems from a new generation of football players that are stronger, faster, more athletic and well-rounded at their positions compared to their predecessors. The strength and speed of today’s football players have caused more injuries than ever before.
There are hundreds of players in the league that have had injuries stemming from ACL, MCL, PCL and Achilles tears. According to Jenny Vrentas of MMQB (Monday Morning Quarterback) with Peter King by Sports Illustrated, there have been a total of 269 NFL players that were on the injured reserve list for the 2013 season. ACL tears alone were responsible for approximately 50 players injuries from the 2013 preseason through Week 13 of the regular season, the highest number recorded since the injuries were first documented in 2004. There is a clear reason that all these lower body injuries are happening and much of it has to do with new rules and regulations about where players can be hit.
This all started when the NFL was hit with a lawsuit by more than 4,500 former players over the leagues inability to warn players about the significance and lasting effects of concussions and head injuries. The lawsuit was settled with former players for an amount of $765 million (which is now being denied by the judge). The league knows it is at fault and has been raising awareness at all levels of play (pop warner, high school, college, and professional) to regain their reputation as a league. As a result, the NFL is taking concussions and head injuries very seriously, and bringing the hammer down on players that tend to not abide by the safety they now stand for. Players are getting fined and suspended for targeting and hitting their opponents anywhere above the neck area. Players are growing tired of getting fined for the laws of physics they cannot control, so they are aiming and targeting more in the lower body area.
It is impossible for a defensive player that is going for the chest/stomach area for a tackle to adjust their body when the offensive player is bracing themselves for a hit and lower their shoulder, which now leaves the head vulnerable to where the defender intended to make the tackle. It is very noticeable that the league is having a high level of difficulty with the amount of fines, injuries, player and public grievances they have encountered in recent years. There is no going back to eliminating the head safety and concussion protocols they implemented, which will most likely leave room for more safety protocols to follow suit. There is absolutely no doubt that the future of the game as we know it, is going to be in a potential decline as the league will figure out a way to eliminate the tackling element altogether.