Sunday, December 26, 2010

If You Cannot Count on the NFL

To Set a good example, then it makes sense to start at the other end.  For football to continue to exist in something like its present state, changes need to happen to reduce, but not eliminate, risks.
So Hosea runs camps that focus on one skill — tackling with your head up instead of down, and away from contact — and gives individual instruction to players in and around Los Angeles. As football careens through its dark cloud of head injuries, Hosea sees himself as saving more than the players’ ability to walk and think. He sees it as saving the sport, one youngster at a time
Training players at an early age might lead to fewer NFL players complaining that the new rules go against years of training and experience.

Of course, the first step should have been mandatory safer helmets.  Aaron Rogers of the Green Bay Packers is returning this week after a concussion which he helped cause by not sliding on a run, and the coverage all mentioned his silly-looking but safer helmet.  All of the players should be wearing helmets with padding on the outside--they would be less dangerous as weapons and more protective.  Inevitable for this to happen but not necessarily soon. 

But training to tackle more safely is also overdue:
“When a kid gets paralyzed or dies, it’s not an accident — the injuries happen because people never teach kids how to tackle the right way,” Hosea told about 20 rapt campers before a session this month. “Everyone’s talking about head injury awareness, awareness, awareness. What are you going to do about it? It drives me absolutely crazy. It’s time for this to stop!” 
 Attitudes are only beginning to change:
“A lot of youth coaches have no idea how to teach tackling — they say to just put a helmet in the numbers or light the other guy up,” said Jeff Leets, whose seventh-grade son, Zack, is a defensive end and devoted Hosea pupil from nearby Torrance. “They have the caveman element and don’t want to be told their way is wrong or that their way is unsafe. Or they simply don’t know. It’s sad — you’ve got babies in your hands, man.”
 What is clear?  We need more Bobby Hosea's, willing to teach a better way, and we need more coaches willing to listen and learn.  Otherwise, football's future might be dim.

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