The new NFL logo went into use at the 2008 draft.

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The National Football League is seriously considering suspending players who are guilty of helmet-t0-helmet contact. This is a good move that should get the players’ attention.

NFL players are bigger and faster than ever before. I can remember back in the 1970s when a lineman who weighed 270 was considered heavy; now weights are routinely in the 300+ range, and players are surprisingly fast for their weight. The forces generated due to tackles by players of that size accounts for the many injuries routinely seen in NFL (and college) football games. What is especially troubling is the increasing number of concussions, many due to helmet-to-helmet contact. The brain damage due to multiple concussions adds up over the years, with the risk of permanent memory, cognitive, and physical deficits.

I doubt that most players intentionally contact helmet-t0-helmet; after all, the person making the contact is likely to suffer a concussion, too. It is more of a matter of getting into bad habits in tackling (and I have been surprised at the poor quality of tackling in general in the NFL). Habits are learned by doing the same action over and over, and they can be unlearned in the same way. However, there must be incentive for them to learn. A player making ten million dollars a year will not worry about a fine. But a three-game suspension will get the player’s attention. Not only will he worry about his team, he may get peer pressure from his teammates not to repeat the offense. Fans may be upset that a star player will not be playing. Though they may initially blame the league, once the suspension penalty becomes well-established, they may begin to see that players have a responsibility to avoid illegal hits. Fans are sometimes true fanatics and do not care if a player from their favorite team hurts a player from another team, but this is a morally bad attitude to have. Fans worthy of the name will demand clean play. Hopefully the league will actually begin suspending players guilty of helmet-to-helmet contact, and hopefully this will change the tackling habits of defensive players for the better. In that way, players’ careers and good health can be better preserved.

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