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Evan Astorquiza

Whitney Gilchrist

ENC 2135

26 February 2017

Evolution; the cause of more injuries

Year in and year out we see a different wave of athletes who begin their professional career in

the sport of their choice. These athletes are progressively getting bigger, faster, and stronger as

time goes on. With these new kinds of athletes it has added another element to sports as a whole.

For some sports, such as basketball, these advanced athletes add some more excitement to the

game. But in contact sports these new athletes can make the game more dangerous for all the

players. Football in specific, with these new athletes running faster and being stronger than the

previous generation’s has increased the number of concussion and knee injuries in specific. As a

spectator I enjoy watching the new wave of athlete, but I think it can be bad for the game of


Early on in football, the players were amateurs. They were your everyday men that were

competitive with some sort of athleticism. Compare that to modern times, players put copious

amounts of time into developing their craft as an athlete. From playing youth leagues to paying

trainers to better themselves. The athletes who are lucky enough to see playing time in the NFL

have dedicated their lives to be in the position they are in. That being said, the athletes have

evolved into this new athlete 2.0. Some of these men are capable of doing things that would’ve

been unheard of just 50 years ago. According to Business Insider, in the 1920’s the average

offensive linemen was 6 feet tall and weighed 211 pounds. To put that into perspective, Jameis
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Winston measures in at 6 feet and 4 inches tall, weighing in at 227 pounds. In 2011 the pro

football weekly came out with a study that states the average offensive linemen was measured at

6 feet and 5 inches, and weighing 300 points. Now if we were to point out some of the stand out

offensive linemen like Flozell Adams, who was measured at 6 feet and 7 inches and weighing a

whopping 340 pounds! Athletes like Adams back in the day were just unheard of. Being that tall

and still being able to be agile and athletic truly is tremendous.

Now that athletes are coming into the league with more speed and weight than ever before

there have been a lot more injuries than have come into play. The most obvious and talked about

injury in modern football is the concussion. With players that have slowly become bigger, faster,

and stronger there has been a growing concern on the health of athlete’s brain. Over the past

decade there has been multiple studies about the brain and there is a growing concern with the

effects of concussions. The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research (NCCSIR)

did a study on the traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries from 2005-2014 and found some

devastating information. This study was done on the effects of high school and college football

players; during this decade long study there were 28 reported deaths due to traumatic brain and

spinal cord injuries. NCCSIR found out that 17 of the 28 deaths were caused by being tackled or

tackling another person. These injuries range from the tackling technique that was implemented

on that tackle alone. The range in skill set could be extremely high; where a very talented team

is going up against a not so talented team and gets beat up. Or even being unaware of your


The number of concussions a player receives throughout their career greatly increases their

odds of having problems later in life. There have been a handful of players who have played

long NFL careers and afterwards been diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
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(CTE). This disease is marked by depression, dementia, and other Alzheimer’s –like symptoms.

In 2002, Mike Webster who played football for the Pittsburg Steelers, committed suicide. It is

reported that prior to Webster’s death, he was enduring so much pain before bed, the only way he

could sleep was to “zap himself with a tazer” (Three and out). The autopsy showed that Webster

had traces of CTE in his brain. Not only did the autopsy discover CTE, but the amount of

damage that Webster endured was equivalent to “25,000 car crashes”. This sighting of CTE in

Webster’s brain was a huge breakthrough for the NFL and studying CTE. This discover

prompted Dr. Omalu to team up with University of Pittsburg and write the Chronic Traumatic

Encephalopathy in a Nation Football League Player. This article was published in July of 2005;

the NFL went on to deny these reports from Dr. Omalu, and went on to try and discredit the

doctor himself. There was a recent film that tells the story about Dr. Omalu. Will Smith plays

Dr. Omalu in the film called Concussion where they go over the story and hardships Dr. Omalu

underwent with publishing Webster’s brain autopsy. Unfortunately, Webster is not the first nor

the last of players to commit suicide and then find out that he had CTE. CTE is a weird disease

that can be only diagnosed after death. Junior Seau was a star defensive player and had a long

successful NFL career; Seau shot himself in the chest and donated his brain to the “NFL brain

bank” in hope that they will be able to study his brain. Once the brain was arrived at the brain

bank, it was announced that Seau also had traces of CTE at the time of his death. Seau’s death

was in 2010, which sparked controversy about the safety of players and how the NFL handles

these injuries.

With these growing concerns the NFL has tried to help diminish the number of concussions

by implementing a new rule and has since created the concussion protocol. Commissioner

Rodger Goodell issued a statement in 2010 that he will suspend or fine and player who violates
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the “playing rules that reasonably put the safety of another player in jeopardy have no place in

this game…” There has been countless number of suspensions and fines that the commissioner

Goodell has given out since that statement. Some ex-players have some issues with this new rule

implemented by commissioner Goodell. Players have come to say that the NFL has gone “soft.”

Defensive players have a hard time dealing with this new rule change. For the quarter back is

the “most important” player on the field and the NFL does everything they can to protect those

men. Even if it is just a clean tackle, a flag can be thrown and that is a 15-yard penalty. Even

with these consequences, it is still hard to control these events during the game. One player

name Ndamukong Suh, is known to have several fines in his career. Per the Detroit Free Press,

Suh has had eight fines and two suspensions over his six-year career; these suspensions and fines

have totaled of Suh losing $404,169! Suh has been known as one of the dirtiest players in NFL

history, but with the speed of the game there is sometimes you cannot control where you hit the


You would think that as technology improves, the amount of concussions would diminish. If

you look at the early days of football the helmets used were leather. Nothing but leather to

protect the most vital organ in your body. Per the National Football League, the first year that the

league required the players wear helmets was 1943. Even with the requirement of wearing

helmets, facemasks were not invented until 1955! In 1971 Riddell implemented air bladders to

help soften the blow and prevent concussions. Since then there has been little to no progress on

the helmet industry. These helmets in modern times are seen more as a weapon rather than a

form of protection.

The NFL did a poor job on their ability to help players and document their concussions early

on. Ex-Buccaneer quarterback Dante Culpepper went on Tampa Bay Times newspaper and said
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“I would say concussions were very common… I can’t remember a single game when someone

wasn’t knocked silly.” Later on in the document he states that “97% of players have concussion

like symptoms.” I can get that the players want to stay in the game and help their team out, but

at a certain point it should not be their decision. For the better of the players health they should

be removed from the game until the symptoms have gone away. Since players were never taken

off the field this resulted in the NFL having around 5,000 lawsuits filed against them. CNN

reports that if a player retired prior to July 7, 2014 the “player could receive up to 5 million

dollars for serious medical conditions related to head trauma.”

The growing concern of concussions isn’t the only injury that is on the rise. The number of

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) have also been on the rise in the past years. Unlike the

concussions, these injuries typically happen with no contact at all. These injuries usually occur

when a player is attempting to quickly change direction. USA Today Sports conducted a survey

of 293 NFL players asking what they were most concern with injuring. 46% of the players voted

their knees, while only 24% voted head and the remaining 26% said nothing. You would think

that the survey would be leaning towards getting concussions, especially with the new studies

that have recently came out. Michael Bush, who is a former running back said this “Anytime

you can avoid hits to the head it’s great. But if you get hit in the knees, that’s your career.” I am

unfortunately able to understand where these players are coming from. The Orthopedic Journal

of Sports Medicine states that “between 21% and 37% of NFL athletes who suffer ACL injuries

never appear in another NFL game.” While some doctors have said that recover time can range

from 6-9 months after surgery, most doctors suggest waiting a full year before returning to the

sport. The athleticism that these men now possess must be a part of this ongoing issue. There

have been theories that since the NFL is so concerned with concussion it is forcing the players to
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hit lower to avoid fines and suspensions. Thus, causing more knee injuries. In the past three

years, the amount of ACL injuries has gone up from 35 to 61. And unfortunately, I think that

trend is here to stay.

The evolution of the athletes has been a good and bad thing on the game of football. While

the game is getting more entertaining to watch as a spectator, but more dangerous for the players

participating in the sport. The number of head injuries that have happened in the past decade is

too many to just overlook. The aftermaths of a long NFL career have proven to be detrimental to

the player and could lead to suicide; it is common to run across CTE in the autopsy. The ACL

injuries are also rising, nobody is too sure why. Since this injury is usually related to non-

contact, it’s the amount of pressure put on the ligaments that cause them to tear. So with athletes

being so fast and powerful that should lead to the tearing of more knee injuries. One hall of

famer Bo Jackson, who played running back in his short career, went on record to say that “I will

not allow my son to play football knowing what I know today.” I absolutely agree, my son will

not play tackle football.
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Mar. 2017.

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