Gridiron: glory or gruesome?

Injuries continue to be a matter of concern for NFL players and fans


photo from Yahoo Sports

Adrian Ramos, General Editor

Football is arguably the most popular sport in all of America, yet it has always had a stigma around the injuries that occur when the sport is played. The amount of physicality and harsh hits that are a part of the sport are bound to lead to bad injuries. Football is among the sports that cause the most injuries with over 450,000 injuries annually according to St. Luke’s Health. 

There are two common forms of injury that occur in football and these are knee injuries or concussions from the hard hits that are commonly taken to the head. Football is one of the only sports that is played with such large amounts of padding worn and injury plagues the league worse than in most sports. 

The most worrisome injuries come when a player’s brain is affected by it. This has been seen throughout the history of football being played professionally. There have been numerous studies done on the brains of deceased NFL players that have shown evidence of brain damage caused by the aggressive nature of the sport. This is called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and it is a progressive brain condition that is a result of repeated concussions and hits to the head. It is commonly seen in heavy-contact sports such as football or boxing. CTE can cause memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression, anxiety, suicidality, parkinsonism, and progressive dementia. It is especially dangerous because there is no way to detect it unless the person is no longer alive. 

An injury to the knee in football is a very common thing. Players will commonly injure their ACL, which is a ligament in the knee. A rupture of the ACL will usually follow with symptoms of swelling, loss of range of motion, tenderness within the joint line, and discomfort while walking. A complete tear of the ACL will result in having to get surgery and six to nine months on the sideline.

Even with the advancement of technology in sports equipment, the sport has yet to seem safer for the players. In week 11 of this year’s NFL season, there are over 400 players on the injury report. There are also currently over 275 players on the injury reserve meaning they are expected to miss at least 4 weeks of time. There have been numerous season-ending injuries this year as well. All of these statistics go to show how unsafe the sport really can be for the players even if their equipment is meant to keep them safe. 

There have been changes to the equipment of the sport that do allow for safer play. The helmets used to be like buckets with limited padding and protection but the rules have changed since then that require the helmets to have thick layers of padding and hard plastic. All of the pants have to have leg pads and players should be wearing pads all over. Shoulder pads, shoes, and mouthguards are among the pieces of equipment that has evolved over the years.

The other changes to the game that have been introduced as a way to prevent injury and change the reckless nature of the game have been the way the referees make their penalty calls. They have heavily favored the safety of quarterbacks and heavily punish late/uncalled-for hits on players. The NFL directors often get labeled as “soft” and “unfun” because of these decisions, but they are extra steps to protect the players putting their lives at risk week in and week out.