Rules of the Game

I have waited about five days to collect my thoughts on this and honestly let my emotions calm a bit.  As some know I can be a bit outspoken and harsh at times but I wanted to refrain from letting emotion get in the way of an important message.  Yes, this post will be mainly about football, but don’t view it as an attack on the sport so many of us, including me, love.

This season across all the levels of play in football there has been a larger emphasis placed on player safety, most notably contact to and with the head while playing football.  It is a FACT that the helmet in football was designed and remains a protective device not a weapon or offensive piece of equipment.  Using the helmet in the later fashion is and should always be a penalty for both sides of the ball.  This is nothing new; since the mid 1970’s “spearing”, “face tackling” and “butt-blocking” (scroll to page 32 of that link) have been outlawed in the sport.  However, routinely those events on the football field are rarely called, now in 2013 there is an emphasis on these types of infractions.  Now there is a caveat of this type of action on the field called “targeting” which at the college level can have a player ejected if egregious enough. (BTW, that picture is a placard that was made in 70’s)

Before I go further, I would like to say that officiating at the high school and lower levels is a thankless job.  The pay is not life changing and most do it as a hobby.  Sure, I have seen some officials that the game has passed by or is too fast for them, but I have also seen men and women that do Yeoman’s work with nothing more than a handshake for a job well done.  It’s not easy folks, I have done it, but done correctly and consistently it is a thing of beauty.  At the college and pro levels these people do great work and often have other jobs besides being on TV and getting players, coaches and fans mad at them.  I can assure you they are doing the best they can.  But, I feel the game of football resides in their and coaches hands, for survival.

At the high school level in our state I know that officials have been told to watch out for targeting and the use of the helmet above the shoulders; this has helped at the cost of adjudicating the other, more established rules from the 70’s.  I have seen four flags in five games for “targeting”/”spearing” above the shoulders; I have seen zero flags for “spearing” when it was below the shoulders.  I didn’t write down every occurrence of these types of tackles in each of my games, however, I can vividly recollect at least 10 instances of spearing on both teams.  Side note here, if I see one of our players do it they get quite the ass chewing from me on the sidelines.

People need to realize that tackling with the head-down is not a safety measure for the person getting tackled, it is a safety measure for Continue reading

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Why Are We Here? Confusion and muddy water

With all the work that has been done up to this point with concussions I truly believe that we should have a better grasp on this injury.  Recently, we have seen some very confusing information come forward, I feel the message has been mixed and may lead to further issues when handling concussions.  Patrick Hruby, in his article on Sports on Earth, takes a very critical look at the Collins research as well as other studies that have pointed to the players being the problem in this concussion issue.

It is not the players fault, it’s not the referees fault, it’s not the coaches fault, it’s not the sports fault.

I do think that football and collision sports do require some sort of “full” practices in a controlled environment.  Although the actual speed of a game is difficult to replicate in a practice, full-go is needed for players to understand the closing speeds, angles and decision-making of the sport.  Without a full grasp on this the player may be at further risk for overall injury in sport.  It would be insane to have a football, hockey Continue reading

Ohio’s New Concussion Law FAQ’s

I was forwarded an information sheet on the newly enacted Ohio Return to Play Law.  It appears as a Frequently Asked Questions form, here are some highlights;

  • Guidelines for both interscholastic and youth sports
  • Who can clear the athlete
  • Specific definition of required training for coaches, referees and officials of youth sports
  • Resources for parents and athletes

This “fact sheet/FAQ” is probably the best written resource I have seen regarding the new return to play legislative actions by states.  It is good that each state is doing something, but in my honest opinion these laws are just a start.

Unfortunately it took actions by legislature to make it perfectly clear that those with concussions, show signs of concussion or report concussion symptoms shall not return on the same day and must be evaluated by a health care professional.  This is something we have known for a few years now.  Each state piece is great for raising awareness.

What we need to advance is the true problem of this concussion “crisis”, that is the proper management and overall treatment of the brain injury.  Concussions will occur, it is an inherent part of all sports – essentially something we cannot “control” – however we can certainly control how the after effects of each concussion are handled.