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No Helmets in Football? Some Safety Experts Say 'Yes'

While the professional football season may be officially over here in Tennessee, things are just heating up around the National Football League as we are now only a few days away from the division championships. While this is certainly exciting, it’s important to understand that not all of the dialogue concerning the sport of football is currently revolving around these matchups.

In fact, many medical experts and safety advocacy groups around the nation are continuing to call attention to the epidemic of concussions and mild traumatic brain injuries in football.

This makes sense when you consider that statistics show that in 2012 alone, there were at least 189 concussions during the regular NFL season, meaning there were more than 11 per week. The numbers aren’t much better at the collegiate level, where statistics show that players suffer 2.5 concussions for every 1,000 “game related exposures.”

To recap, a concussion occurs when either a blow to the head or a violent motion of the head causes the brain to actually move and forcefully strike the inner wall of the skull, a phenomenon that some liken to shaking an egg and the impact on the yolk contained within.

While concussions routinely cause short-term symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea and confusion, recent studies theorize that they may also cause more lasting problems, especially if sustained more than once. For instance, scientists have linked repeat concussions to everything from memory problems and depression to degenerative brain diseases and structural brain damage.

In light of these realities, there are some who are now proposing a rather drastic solution to the problem of concussions in the sport of football: removing helmets from the game altogether.

“We have an epidemic, and there aren’t solutions to change it,” said one expert. “Fines don’t work –such as getting penalized if you use your head. And fear of a future illness doesn’t really do it; they’re living in the here and now. So how do we create that paradigm shift? It has to be a crazy idea.”

Here, the idea seems to be that if helmets are removed from the game, it will cause players to adapt their playing style accordingly, meaning no more use of their heads during tackling. In this regard, American football would more closely resemble rugby or Australian rules football.

Other experts, however, discount this idea as both impractical and dangerous, arguing that the real solution is designing a new helmet to replace the now 50-year design of a hard shell lined with soft, energy-absorbing material (foam, gel, etc.).

It is worth noting that engineers are currently hard at work making this happen, with one group developing a so-called helmet cap that utilizes a soft-hard-soft design model.

It should be interesting to see what changes, if any, are introduced in football helmet technology over the coming years. What are your thoughts on this topic? Should removing helmets even be considered as a solution?

Consider speaking with an experienced attorney if you or a loved one has suffered a serious brain injury due to the negligence of another. Together, you can discuss your options, your rights and your ability to secure justice.

Source: Fox News, “The concussion epidemic: Should helmets be banned from football?,” Loren Grush, Jan. 9, 2014