When two human bodies collide moving at even moderate speed, the forces produced are incredible. A study conducted by Popular Mechanics magazine found an NFL defensive back tackling a wide receiver can produce up to 1,600 pounds of tackling force, subjecting the receiver’s head to as many as 60 times the force of gravity. More violent collisions can produce up to 150 Gs at impact. In comparison, an F-16 pilot can pull as many as 9 Gs in a roll.
So what can be done? Improvement in equipment, emphasis on proper tackling technique, increased strength training, increased penalties for helmet-to-helmet contact, all are important, but you aren’t going to take the possibility of concussions out of the game unless you turn it into flag football, and you won’t get people to shell out more than $78 a ticket (the NFL average in 2012) to see that.
Some have suggested eliminating face masks, or banning helmets altogether. The NFL’s idea is its Heads Up program, which emphasizes tackling mechanics aimed at reducing helmet contact, as well as concussion recognition and response and proper helmet and shoulder pad fitting.
Football is a violent game, which is part of its appeal. Taking the violence out of it altogether will turn it into something other than football.
Education and proper coaching can go a long way toward reducing the risks of football, but they never will be eliminated altogether. That’s something parents must consider when first allowing their sons to participate in the game.
But everything that can be done, must be done, lest Barney’s dire prediction someday come true.
Jeff Mullin is a columnist for the News & Eagle in Enid, Okla. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.