By DOUG DEPREKER
The NFL, in September, agreed to a $765 million settlement in a case brought on by more than 4,500 former professional players which has resulted in more education about the dangers of head injuries.
The lawsuit alleged that the NFL concealed the long term dangers of concussions in an effort to avoid scrutiny and as a result many former players are suffering. Recently, the NFL has tried to educate its players and clean-up the game but, the sport is just so violent that all types of injuries are going to happen.
Dr. Chris Ropiak of the Union County Orthopedic Group in Union, NJ, has served on the medical staff of the LA Lakers and USC Football among other teams.
“It is great to see that the NFL has addressed concussion prevention and given a substantial amount of money towards further research as the long term effects of these repeated traumas is still being discovered.” Ropiak said
Concussions are by far the injury that is putting the player’s long-term health at risk the most. The NFL has tried to de-emphasize hard hits above the shoulders and are now flagging defenders for leading with their helmet or launching their bodies at defenseless offensive players.
The NFL recently changed rules so that players avoid head butts and subsequent concussions. The referee will be flagging defenders for leading with their helmet and/or launching their body at defenseless offensive players. Repeat offenders will be fined or even suspended.
Ropiak agrees that there may be a spike in injuries to the lower body as a result of new NFL rules to avoid head injuries.
“With hits now being made lower on the body, we may start to see an increased number of hip, knee and ankle injuries,” Ropiak said.
However, the players are not particularly happy with the rule change. Many offensive players have gone on record saying that defenders are now targeting their lower bodies (most notably: knee) instead of being flagged or fined for a helmet to helmet hit.
In an interview with USA Today Sports, Pro Bowl Tight End Tony Gonzalez said, “Hitting a defenseless player in the knee, that’s something we all dread as players. That’s my nightmare. Hit me in my head [instead].” Gonzalez would rather take a concussion and be out for two weeks rather than possibly miss an entire season with a knee injury.
Dustin Keller, Tight End for the Miami Dolphins, now has to deal with the worst-case scenario, after he was hit directly in the knee during a preseason game by Houston Safety D.J. Swearinger. Swearinger admitted in an interview with the Palm Beach Post, that the new rules made him dive low, “In this league you’ve got to go low, if you go high you’re going to get a fine.”
Ropiak knows that the likelihood of torn knee ligaments may be higher in the NFL than in lower levels of football.
“NFL players are big, strong, and fast, but their ligaments are not necessarily stronger than an average person’s ligament.” Ropiak said “When an NFL tackler is coming in for the hit there is much more momentum and force at play than there is with a tackler in high school football.”
In essence, not all NFL players are thrilled with the emphasis on hits to their lower body. The players are short sighted and want to stay in the league as long as they can to earn every dollar they can. An NFL player would sacrifice his long-term health for the ability to stay healthy in the short term.