Should American football players wear helmets?

We’ve all been hearing about the negative effects of repeated high g decelerations of the brain and the consequences in later life.

It seems to me that if the false security of helmets were eliminated by banning them, the players would not charge head first into the nearest opposing player. If they have any brains left that is. They would be forced to play in a more upright stance and just knock each others teeth out with their elbows. If you’ve ever seen newsreels from the '20’s of football games you can see what I mean. We probably could never know if these players got CTE but it sure doesn’t look like they could from the newsreels.

I am no football fan but those that are should fear for the future of their sport if the mothers of young players have anything to say about it.

Soccer and rugby also have concussion and brain injury problems they need to deal with.

Let’s face it. Any time you have people running into each other, people will get hurt.

Good idea - anyone have any knowledge of the frequency of CTE in soccer or especially rugby? This would give some idea of what might happen if footballers helmets were taken away.

This is akin to saying we should get rid of air bags and seat belts in order to make drivers drive more safely.

An episode of mythbusters on bottles exploding into fragments as portrayed in movie barroom brawls, used a football helmet with a dummy head covered with recording sensors to test the extent of protection provided by the football helmet after being struck by a bottle.

After checking the excessively high sensor readings on the dummy head the mythbusters made it clear that there was absolutely no way that they would use their own heads for further tests of the myth.

They didn’t follow through on the helmet aspect as that was not the main purpose of testing the barroom brawl myth, but it seems that a football helmet provides little, if any, protection against brain trauma, whether caused by a sudden deceleration or a collision with a hard object.

My understanding is that the worst damage is caused by the brain moving around inside the skull. And no amount of external armor will prevent this.

I thought I’d heard somewhere that when football players started wearing (hard) helmets they also started hitting harder. Similarly, as new safety inventions came along for cars (notably seat belts and airbags) people started driving faster.

So, WRT football, if you take away their helmets, will they stop hitting so hard, or at least stop leading with their head? Will it reduce the amount of brain injuries?
Similarly, if you come up a better helmet technology, you can bet that brain injuries will go down for a little while until they learn how much harder they can hit until they’re about the same as they were before.

When I started my teaching career, I worked with an elderly guy who had played in the leather helmet days and coached into the modern helmet era. He derided the modern helmets as “weapons” and claimed they increased certain types of injuries as well as making the game needlessly brutal.

Perhaps they should be further “weaponized”. Mandate the use of Pickelhaubes :smiley:

From observation many football concussions appear to be when the player’s head hits the ground or the shoulder or head of another player as they are falling. I don’t recall many from players leading with the crown delivering the blow to get the injury. Typically it seems to be the recipient.

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and while it may seem counterintuitive it seems to me that the net effect of hard shelled helmets has been to make American football less safe. The problem is that it seems to give the wearers a false sense of protection, thereby affecting the way they tackle. Before hard-shelled helmets were introduced football tackling was much more similar to what you now see in Rugby, where the idea is to stop your opponent by wrapping your arms around him, but that started to gradually change since the middle of the last century until by the end of the century players were basically using their bodies as guided missiles, and using the helmet itself as a weapon. Thing is that you can’t just eliminate helmets overnight and expect the players to suddenly unlearn everything they have learned about about tackling to this point.

To be fair, it’s not like football was any safer back in the day before helmets.

Not really. Here’s some footage of Red Grange in the 1920s. A lot of it is blurry, but if you slow it down(and try not to focus on Grange breaking tackles) you’ll see a lot of action, particulary on the lines, where the players are coming in low and head first. In fact, around the 2:01 mark, you’ll see a defender coming at Grange relatively upright, then lean forward in an attempt to spear him.

Here’s the 1943 NFL championship. The footage is a little clearer. Players still wearing leather helmets. Around the 0:30 mark, keep your eye on #9 as he heads toward the lower right and spears the oncoming lineman quite effectively.

It’s true that the style of play tended to be more “upright” back then, but there was certainly no shortage of players who would use their heads as weapons, old fashioned helmets or not.

There are no helmets in Australian rules Football. Do they use their heads as battering rams? What about rugby?

Boxing gloves were introduced to protect the hands. Thicker gloves tend to lead to greater cranial impacts.

Not all head impacts are because of the helmet being used as a weapon. A knee may accidentally impact the head, etc.

Yup. It’s always been a violent and dangerous sport. Helmets delayed the apparent damage until after the player’s careers were over.

Rugby is not all that similar to American football. As I understand it, blocking is not really allowed, at least not in the same way. There are no offensive and defensive lines, it is a much looser game. The first player mentioned in Concussion was the Steelers center, the guy on the line who has to snap the ball and immediately plunge headfirst into the D line, for which there is no comparison in rugby. The closest rugby has to a line is a scrum, but that merely involves two wedges of opposing players linked together trying to shove each other off the ball; there is no impact-like contact in a scrum.

From what I have seen of Australian rules football, it bears even less resemblance to American football. It is more like some weird rugby/soccer hybrid brawl that is about as loosely played as rugby.

I know nothing about American football. A major area of concern should be the damage caused by so called armour, one concern is helmets is that they increase the mass of the head leading to neck injuries, a helmet also increases the diameter of the head increasing the rotational speed of the head leading not only to neck injuries but also increasing the rotational spin of the brain. these are reasons being given for banning head guards in amature boxing in the UK so could be relevant to other contact sports. Although American football is different to English rugby and Aussie rules a comparison of injuries could show how many injuries are caused by equipment or reckless play caused by over confidence in the equipment.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (probably to as attentive a reception as I got last time): REPLACE TACKLE FOOTBALL WITH FLAG FOOTBALL!

By eliminating as much as possible any opportunities for collisions, the incidence of CTE should decrease dramatically. As a side benefit, since playing the game will not exact quite so high a toll on the players’ bodies, they will be able to convert to a 162-game season with little difficulty.

Seriously, the major reason football isn’t worth following is because it’s just not practical to be a fan of a team if you have to wait a week between chances to see them play.

Better yet, LINGERIE FOOTBALL. I’ve only seen it played by all-female teams, but I’d buy a ticket to see male lingerie football.