Of course “injuries are a part of the game,” but the NFL has reached a point where the preponderance of injuries suggest the game is too dangerous to be played in its current state.
This wild-card weekend, Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor was knocked out of the game with a head injury just when his team had a chance to extend the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars into overtime, yet feel short 10-3. Kansas City Chiefs tight end and Pro-Bowler Travis Kelce struggled to stand after a hit in a game the Chiefs lost by one point.
When important and dynamic players are not able to participate in the biggest games of the season, changing the outcome of the games and potentially the entire postseason, it’s time to evaluate the merits of the sport. These problems aren’t exclusive to the playoffs either.
This entire season was unequivocally altered by season-ending injuries to star players. In Week 1, David Johnson and reigning comeback player of the year Eric Berry suffered season-ending injuries. In Week 5, three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt lost another season with a knee injury. Potential Rookie of the Year Candidate Deshaun Watson tore his ACL in Week 9. In Week 14, MVP candidate Carson Wentz, who led the Philadelphia Eagles to the best record in the NFL, tore his ACL.
Joe Thomas, 10-time Pro Bowler, who never missed a snap in his 11-year, tore his triceps in Week 7 and hasn’t played since. This season broke him and highlights how now, this violent sport, with ever-larger, faster athletes and questionable safety rules, has become too unsafe.
Those are just the season-ending injuries to the game’s best players. These players were cast-aside, replaced and forgotten by the league, teams and fans. It’s the nature of the game, the pervasive “next-man-up” mentality suggesting just how universal these injuries are. While this changed the season and diminished the quality of the product, that can’t be the only concern with the sport.
At some point, fans need to worry about players’ safety. While they may be celebrated like gods, these players are human. The injuries the NFL subjects these players to debilitate them with pain during and after their playing careers. Using Toradol, a pain-killer commonly used in the league, known for side-effects of gastrointestinal bleeding and kidney damage, is not appropriate for anyone to survive an athletic season. I struggle to support a sport that at the very least seems synonymous with horrific injuries and prefers to ignore them rather than treat them.
In the 10 years I’ve enjoyed the sport, there were always injuries. Yet, this year was different with five injuries as brutal as I can remember since I started watching football.
First is when Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams was knocked unconscious and hospitalized after receiving a hit from Chicago Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan. Given the increasing speed and size of the players, the game’s rules must change to make account for shattering impacts players endure. Trevathan was fined and suspended for an illegal hit, but these scaring head injuries are increasingly common.
During Week 17, a penalty failed to stop this lethal hit to San Fransisco 49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin.
Man.. 30+ years of watching football.. never seen a physical reaction to a concussion like this.
Looked like Maquise Goodwin was trying to catch the ball all over again. #49ers pic.twitter.com/RSkKb4BXFZ
— Randy Scott (@RandyScottESPN) December 31, 2017
In Week 14, Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage lay shaking on the ground after a hit to the head. Despite this, he returned to the game. Savage started the season as a backup to the potential Rookie of the Year Deshaun Watson who tore his ACL in Week 9.
This is hard to watch. Savage did return but is now in the locker room. pic.twitter.com/EqHc2zJmln
— Nick Olson (@CoachO37) December 10, 2017
These three head injuries don’t even involve the many other concussions in the NFL, diagnosed or undiagnosed.
The NFL’s concussion protocol includes a team physician and “unaffiliated neurologist” hired by the league to examine any player suspected of a concussion. A protocol that allows a quarterback with seizure-like symptoms to play in the same game is not sound.
Earlier in the season, the protocol failed again. The NFL and its Players Association conducted a month-long investigation into the Seattle Seahawks’ evaluation of quarterback Russell Wilson and fined the team $100,000 for not following it properly.
The Seahawks are valued at $2.4 billion and their owner boasts a net worth of $20.7 billion, according to Forbes. Punishing the team with $100,000 does not adequately disincentivize the team from removing its star from the game and treating him properly. It typifies a league willing to risk its players’ lives for a buck.
Not only is the treatment of concussions problematic, but the sport also suffers from subconcussive hits players face every play, from tackling or blocking, which the Concussion Legacy Foundation argues damages memory and attention, overall brain function and later-life behavioral problems.
What was different about this year, too, was the career-threatening and life-altering injuries. In Week 8, Chicago Bears tight end Zach Miller suffered a gruesome knee injury. He was rushed to a hospital and doctors feared they needed to amputate his leg. The NFL has devolved into a sport where a player could lose his leg on any given Sunday.
In Week 13, Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker Ryan Shazier dove for a tackle, reached for his back and lost feeling in his legs. Three days later, Shazier underwent emergency spinal stabilization surgery. It wasn’t until January 5 when Shazier, still hospitalized, reported feeling in his legs. To be clear: an NFL player was nearly paralyzed from an action that occurs dozens of times in every game.
People not walking. That’s where I draw the line. That’s where the game needs to stop, or at least change. In order to enact change as a fan, you need to stop watching, stop giving money to the league and impact its bottom line. They won’t listen to articles like these or media outcry. The thing that matters most to Commissioner Roger Goodell and the 32 owners is their revenue.
I may seem like a hypocrite. I watched these games after all and have been watching NFL games since I was 10. Watching the NFL can be addictive. It feels like a terrible habit I’ve developed over 10 years and it’s time to curb it.
However, by watching the NFL I’m promoting this barbaric game. I’m not eager to stay up in the early hours of the morning, like I once did, to see gruesome injuries. These players can’t last much longer, and the game, in its current iteration, shouldn’t either.
Written by Editor-in-Chief: Online Sourna Daneshvar Jr.
Featured photo by Media Editor: Olivia Abrams
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