All the horrific injuries going down in the NFL and college football could eventually bring the game itself to a stop.
We talked Rob Dickerman, M.D. – a neurosurgeon from Texas – about changes the sport needs to make to save itself.
Dr. Dickerman suggested the usual stuff – education about proper tackling and penalising illegal tackles in the NFL and NCAA – but what was really interesting was what he said about equipment kids and pros alike should be wearing.
He told us the NFL needs to copy what they’re doing in Nascar. He said NFL hemlets and pads need to restrict cervical rotation and flexion-extension movements in particular.
Basically, those movements are moving your head side-to-side and then, when looking to the side, up-and-down. Here’s a video demonstration:
What kind of equipment could restrict this movement? Soon after Dale Earnheart died in 2001, Nascar drivers started wearing something called the HANS device. It looks like this:
Here’s what it looks on somebody:
If the device looks sort of familiar to football fans, that’s because some players have been wearing similar neck rolls for quite some time. Here’s NFL great Willie Lanier wearing one back in the 1960s:
Dr. Dickerman tells us if we could somehow combine the HANS device and the old fashioned neck roll into a new piece of equipment, it would “significantly reduce injuries,” particularly on “spearing” tackles when tacklers hit their chin to the opponents chest and their cervical spine is in hyperflex.
Sure, NFL players would like kind of funny not being able to turn their heads as much from side to side – and it might even degrade the game a bit – but all that’s a worthwhile sacrifice if it means keeping the NFL around for more than another 15, 20 years, right?
Either way, thanks to changes the league will have to make it if wants to survive, you won’t recognise the NFL in 2020
Here’s an early look at the HANS Device:
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