Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Deadspin has an excellent column today titled The Helmet Con: How To Make A Buck Off The Concussion Crisis.

Basically, and this is in agreement with all the research I've done after Eli 12.0 had a concussion back in his 10.5 revision, the article's saying that anyone who thinks helmets will stop concussions doesn't understand the basic physics involved, and that there are plenty of companies taking advantage of people's lack of understanding.

That's true. From the research I've done, what helmets really do is prevent skull fractures. They do little to prevent concussions, because the only way a helmet could do that would be to reduce the velocity of the brain inside the skull after a collision. The classic analogy is an egg yolk inside the shell. A harder shell isn't going to protect the yolk from moving inside the shell in response to impact.

What is very interesting in a larger sense, though, is how this could affect football.

Football is so popular here that an NFL pre-season football game (the games don't even count in the standings!) had double the ratings of a Yankees-Red Sox game on ESPN Sunday night. It's staggeringly popular.

The information coming out about concussions, though, makes me wonder. Quite a few of the parents I know are leaning their kids away from playing tackle football, and this is the #1 reason why. Is it conceivable to see a point where the talent pool is so much more shallow, because of reduced participation, that it begins to affect the popularity of the game?

It's hard to imagine that ever happening, given football's current popularity. But baseball was, by far, the most popular spectator sport in the 1970s. Forty years later, Eli 12.0 has never watched a single baseball game all the way through. He'll watch a few innings of a playoff game, but that's as much as he can stand.

I used to love baseball, and I can't stand it, either. Today's game (to me) is like watching paint dry. So tastes can and do change.

Football's problem is that it's going to be almost impossible to modify the rules in an effective manner to reduce concussions beyond banning hits to the head, and that will have only a very limited effect.

What will be interesting to watch is how the business interests of football try to protect themselves. The NFL is an unbelievably huge cash cow, and so are many major college programs. It will be fascinating to see if they are willing, at any point, to be straightforward and honest about the ongoing (and damning) research.

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