Will Football Ever Be ‘Safe’?

More stories from Nathan Giocondo


The year is 1999. It’s the third week of the NFL season and superstar quarterback Steve Young drops back into the pocket. Young scans the secondary for a moment and then is demolished by a blitzing Arenas Williams. The hit on Young was clean, but brutal. Young rolled in agony on the ground and just like that, his illustrious career was over. The footballer never played another snap in the league again.

Now, jump forward to this NFL season. It’s the wildcard matchup between the Miami Dolphins and the Pittsburgh Steelers to a similar situation. Matt Moore, the quarterback for the Dolphins, is rolling out of the pocket and gets destroyed by Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree. Moore went down, got up a few moments later, and sat out for a measly one play. He shouldn’t have gone back into the game that quickly, no matter the scenario.  

“I needed a second,” Moore said. “I was checking to see if I had all my teeth, really.”

Moore needed more than a second. The Dolphins claimed that he passed the concussion protocol that the league has recently implemented, but anyone watching that game knew that couldn’t be true. It was later proven that the protocol was not properly followed, as team officials kept Moore in the game even though he failed one of the criteria. This is one of the many problems surrounding concussions in the NFL.

While the NFL is taking steps forward to deal with concussions, they need to be stricter on teams that break protocol. Miami received a slap on the wrist: No fine, no penalty. The player who hit Moore received a fine and was penalized, but the team who put a player back in greater risk was not.

So far, the NFL has increased penalties being called on players and fines that are handed out. Suspensions are also given to players that repeatedly “head hunt.” The fines are a drop in the bucket for some players and a fifteen-yard penalty does not seem to be enough to stop players from hitting high. That’s another problem with the penalties; instead of going high, guys are going low. When players go low, more and more leg injuries are occurring. Essentially, there is no easy way to make the game safer, and we know that, but more has to be done.

The NFL recently published their concussion information from the last season and concussions dropped from 275 in 2015 to 244 in 2016. While this may show progress, that’s still an alarming number of head injuries. To get concussions down even more, the NFL must revolutionize. Personal fouls and fines are simply not enough. There’s not going to be one easy solution, but the NFL must fix their concussion problem if they want the sport to survive––and their players.