Concussion rules sometimes go too far

Story by Nathalia Barr, Managing Editor

With recent NFL incidents and U.S. soccer rules changes, how far is too far to protect players from concussions?

While watching the Chiefs’ 34-20 win over the Raiders last weekend, I mindlessly stared at the TV during a timeout until one particular commercial brought me out of my daze.

The movie trailer for Concussion<em>Concussion</em> caught my attention, at first simply because of the irony. The NFL has been contending with the backlash from fans who argue that it does not protect players from head injuries. caught my attention, at first simply because of the irony. The NFL has been contending with the backlash from fans who argue that it does not protect players from head injuries. Concussion caught my attention, at first simply because of the irony. The NFL has been contending with the backlash from fans who argue that it does not protect players from head injuries.

This movie is based on a true story about Bennet Omalu, a pathologist who goes to war against the NFL after discovering the effects of football on former players. Players get hit over and over again throughout their careers, and it has been directly linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This disease altered the life of Hall of Famer Mike Webster, who killed himself in 2002.

The movie trailer portrays the NFL as a heartless organization that would rather focus on money than safety. The NFL has been under fire for overlooking concussions and allowing players to play with head injuries.

Although the number of concussions has decreased this season, more examples keep popping up that hurt the NFL’s image. Recently in the Rams-Ravens game, St. Louis quarterback Case Keenum stayed in the game after hitting his head on the ground while being tackled.

I find it disturbing that nobody immediately questioned Keenum’s condition as he was slow to get up, grabbed his head and seemed disoriented. Regardless, he played the rest of the game.

In the game situation, tied at 13-13 with little time left in the fourth quarter, it seems as if the team put the importance of the quarterback’s health beneath that of winning the game. After the game, Keenum was diagnosed with a concussion.

The concussion topic isn’t unique to football. After the threat of litigation, U.S. soccer made rules to keep youth players from heading the ball. Now, any organization under U.S. soccer guidelines will not allow players 10-and-under to head the ball. In addition, players 11-to-14 years old will have the number of headers at practice reduced.

I get it. Parents want to keep their kids safe. However, these rules only apply to youth national teams, academies and MLS youth club teams. Those kids who are at an elite level are restricted, while the rule is simply a recommendation for other leagues that do not use the U.S. Soccer rules.

While restricting headers may be safe, it is also holding back kids from learning a key aspect of the game. This may not be a problem for your small-town team with an overly excited dad as the coach. For national academy teams, on the other hand, players need to learn that skill if they intend to compete at a higher level.

Most studies over concussions in youth sports don’t show that they come from heading the ball. More concussions are caused by contact with another player or with the ground.

When it comes to protecting players with new rules, the game can change if they are taken too far. Safety should be a concern, especially in the NFL. However, I don’t believe rules should be made that fundamentally alter the game, and this could be the case with headers in soccer.