Professional football players are expected, and paid, to deliver excruciatingly hard blows to their opponents since it is the nature of their livelihood. Would they still be willing to put their bodies in harms way if they fully understood what these hits could mean for their health? In the 2015 sports biopic Concussion, Dr. Bennet Omalu discovers a degenerative brain disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. He uses the brain tissue of late professional football players to show the link between the disease and repeated blows to the head. The film also shows the NFL’s initial resistance to Omalu’s research. Once the research became more accessible to the public, the NFL had no choice but to take action and support the fight for advanced player safety. Although the film is primarily about Omalu’s discovery of CTE and his fight for validation, Concussion does a poor job at fully displaying the NFL’s side of the story.
In recent years, the NFL has put in place some new concussion protocols in order to prevent the injury from occurring unnecessarily. In 2013, the NFL implemented the “Crown-of-the-Helmet” rule (Timeline: the NFL’s Concussion Crisis). This rule is designed to penalize a player who “intentionally initiates contact with another player using the top of his helmet”(Hanson). Depending on the severity of the hit, the player can either be slammed with a 15-yard penalty or be ejected from the game entirely. This rule is quite effective since it forces the players to keep their heads up while making the tackle, thus greatly reducing the likelihood of a severe head or neck injury. This rule also raises awareness for the importance of education within the sport at younger ages. Enforcing proper tackling techniques at a young age allows kids to grow up in the sport knowing that they should not be leading into a tackle with their head. The Crown-of-the-Helmet rule should ideally prevent numerous concussion and spinal cord injuries from occurring, which will ultimately reduce the chance that these future players will suffer from CTE. With this one rule change, the NFL has completely altered the play of the game, but its benefits most certainly outweigh the costs since this rule is also proving to protect the future generations of professional athletes.