In Sunday’s Indianapolis Colts game, Austin Collie took a hard hit that left him unconscious on the field. The referees took a lot of criticism for penalizing the defense by calling the hit unnecessary roughness and giving a fifteen yard penalty. I think the ref was right to throw the flag. He saw helmet to helmet contact and a player lying unconscious on the field. The penalty was excessive for what the hit was, but without instant replay, I don’t see how the refs could have known that. This call ignited a lot of conversation because sports fan are worried that the NFL’s recent crackdown on concussions and helmet to helmet hits is going to take away from the sport. Somehow, if the defense line can crunched the head of an offense receiver, the sport will be lost.
I support the NFL’s increased attention on the risks associated with head injuries. I think they have been ignored for far too long and players have been encouraged to return too quickly from serious head injuries. I think the NFL is really missing the boat by holding only the players responsible after reviewing instant replays a week later. If the NFL was serious about head injuries, it would institute a minimum two week waiting rule for any player that sustained a head injury and all players would be evaluated by a NFL physician or physician panel in addition to the team doctor. The NFL would also begin researching alternative helmets, collars and padding that would further protect the players. A huge part of football is tackling. Any tackle, not just helmet-on-helmet could result in a serious head injury.
I understand that the men who chose to play this game understand the risks, or at least I hope they do, but if technology exists that can make the game more safe – the NFL should use it.