By Ken Reed
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is making the rounds touting the NFL’s new “heads up tackling” campaign, which will supposedly make youth football safer. The reality is, the campaign, co-sponsored by USA Football, is more of a PR campaign than a safety campaign.
The cold hard fact, the elephant in the NFL’s living room, is you can’t take brain trauma out of football, no matter what you do with your head upon contact. Helmets don’t protect the brain from sloshing around inside the skull like a bowl of jello upon contact. And, whatever a player does with his head when blocking and tackling, he can still suffer a concussion from a blow to the chest that causes a whiplash effect on the brain. For example, if a player is running with the ball and takes a head-on shot to the chest from a defender, the runner’s brain will be jolted inside the skull the same way it would be if the runner had received a head-to-head blow.
“It seems to me the height of grandiosity to assume you can trick people into believing that running into other people at high speeds can be made safe. We’ve gone over in extensive detail the reasons why it’s impossible not to hit with your head on the football field,” says former NFL player Nate Jackson.
Matt Chaney summarizes the current situation — and football’s challenge — well:
“Tackle football has real dangers, especially for kids. In endorsing heads-up football, Goodell is trying to define down the sport’s problems. He wants us to believe that the game is not in existential crisis—that everything will be OK so long as the players follow simple rules. Those kinds of statements from Goodell and others, as well as programs that push a supposedly safe version of football, dupe naïve parents, pose undue risk for trusting juveniles, and raise the legal stakes for vulnerable coaches and hosting entities.”
Football’s in trouble. Deep trouble. It can’t be fixed — at least in any meaningful way that will protect participants from the short-and-long-term consequences of brain trauma.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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