Last Sunday was a bloody day for the NFL, and not just for the Detroit Lions who were beat down by the Chiefs in London 45-10.
It was a day that stood out not as much for the football that was played, but the injuries as a result of play. Nobody seemed safe in a week where injuries struck across the league in a variety of unpleasant ways.
Torn MCLs, ACLs, a host of concussions and even lacerated kidneys, found their way into the spotlight. Football is a dangerous sport, that’s simply the nature of the game. But is it too violent?
The NFL changes policies constantly to make the game safer for players, but despite their efforts, it seems like the injuries just keep piling it up.
No matter who you support, season ending injuries are always unpleasant to see. The play that resulted in Le’veon Bell’s torn MCL was more than just unpleasant; it was genuinely difficult to watch. As one of the best running backs in the NFL, and arguably the most important piece of the Steelers’ offense, it’s a major loss. But who can you really blame? It was a clean hit. His foot planted under his body and rolled beneath him in a cringe-inducing bend. There was no flag on the play, and there was no reason for one.
This is the nature of the beast; injuries are a part of football, and this kind of injury is simply going to happen, as unfortunate as it is.
A similarly unfortunate situation arose with Keenan Allen, star receiver on the Chargers, who damaged his kidney and is out for the season. He was tackled in the end zone catching a touchdown pass. It’s a huge loss for the Chargers, but it wasn’t malicious or illegal contact. It was simply an unfortunate incident.
The most dramatic injury, in terms of visual shock, was the hit on Seahawks wide-receiver Ricardo Lockette that had the wide receiver motionless on the ground for several full minutes.
Both teams were huddled around his immobile body while medical staff rolled out a cart to transport Lockette to the hospital. As he was taken from the field, he raised his hands to thunderous applause. It turned out that he suffered a severe concussion from the hit, and it was penalized as an illegal block against the Cowboys. But replays show it was perfectly clean. Lockette lowered his head into the blocker, and was hit hard enough that it knocked him out completely. This is the kind of injury the NFL has been focused on for the last several years. The very delayed flag for an illegal block was a half-hearted way of saying, “It’s not our fault these injuries happen, it was a fair hit to begin with,” by the refs.
Concussions are scary, and a major problem in the NFL. Kickoff distances were moved from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line in an attempt to limit the number of kick returns, one of the most dangerous plays in the sport. This offseason, a new concussion protocol was put into place that allows referees to take players out of the game if they suspect a player has been concussed — a rule that was partially put in place because of Julian Edelman allegedly playing concussed in last year’s Super Bowl. A huge amount of attention has been drawn to concussions in the past several years as their long term damage is being brought to light. But how far can the NFL really go to minimize the likelihood of concussions?
Realistically, the probability of that injury is the same as a ligament tear or a broken bone. Nobody wants to be injured, and some precautions can be put into place for added safety. But, at the end of the day, it’s a career hazard that has to be accepted as a part of the game. What more can be done?