Policy Changes Strike Controversy in NFL


  Safety first. From a very young age, we are all taught that safety comes first. Whether it is making sure to buckle a seatbelt, or looking both ways before crossing the street, safety has become a fundamental aspect of our lives. 

  And it was this aspect that led the National Football League (NFL) to make a drastic policy change regarding eight newly prohibited helmets, sparking controversy from one of the NFL’s most acclaimed players. 

  With safety concerns for head injuries at an all time high in the NFL, this rule modification, which banned many helmets in 2018 due to being “unsafe”, seems reasonable. Despite this, many players, such as the acclaimed Antonio Brown, have felt the negative effects of popular helmet models such as the Rawlings Impulse and the SG Varsity being banished from the game. 

   In essence, the fact of the matter is that Antonio Brown has a point backed by evidence, logic, and experience of players using any helmet, exiled from the game, or top rated. 

   Antonio Brown, Oakland Raiders wide receiver and seven-time Pro Bowl player, threatened to end his career over  the banning of his helmet. Brown’s helmet, the schutt air advantage that he has been wearing for 9 years, was one of the models deemed “too old” for NFL use in 2018, as a consequence of the policy change. 

  In essence, the fact of the matter is that Antonio Brown has a point backed by evidence, logic, and experience of players using any helmet, exiled from the game, or top rated. 

  This rule modification implies that an older model offers worse protection, which is simply untrue. Players want to feel the extension of their bodies in their equipment, and familiarity is the root of that feeling. If the NFL removes familiarity, all that will remain is a forced relationship between player and helmet.

  Furthermore, the only concussion Brown has sustained throughout his career was not a head on collision where a helmet’s  impact protection would come into play, but rather a hit from a blindside by linebacker Vontaze Burfict. No helmet in the world would have been able to prevent a concussion. Football is a game of circumstance, as in any case of a game with many head to head matchups filled with contact. Yet, despite all of the NFL’s efforts to protect its players, even the organization’s top ranked helmets prove little use in preventing concussions and other head injuries. 

  Just ask Brian Cushing, former linebacker for the Houston Texans. In 2017, Cushing began using one of the NFL’s top ranked helmets, the VICIS ZERO1, which served its purpose up until Cushing experienced a concussion, the very one that ultimately spiraled into the end of his career. This proves that no matter what kind of helmet football players are wearing, these athletes are still susceptible to head injuries and concussions. As a result, the new rule modification is not the best modification the  NFL could implement. 

 As football advances into  a more aggressive sport, players helmets can never fully protect them from all impacts. Cushing’s career is an unfortunate example of this reality. Sadly, the NFL will never be able to fully solve this problem.  Essentially, the NFL’s unfortunate decision only will accomplish more players sitting out extended periods of time with their own grievances. 

    If the NFL truly thinks that a slight increase in  protection should be valued over comfort and familiarity their athletes feel over  their helmet, they are making a meaningful mistake which may lead to highly influential players such as Brown sitting out.

  Moving forward, the NFL should consider  these issues when making such impactful decisions with the players union, a player led group which argues for player rights.  

 With no dip in concussions in two years and as football becomes increasingly competitive, something as minuscule as a type of football helmet should not be the NFL’s top concern. Antonio Brown’s merely outdated, but tested and proven, helmet shall be officially reinstated into the NFL ranks of legal helmets. 

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