By Justin Lipitz and Jason Virasami
The way in which football is being played is changing dramatically, and not just at the professional level. As of late, all eight Ivy League schools have agreed to ban contact football practices. The individual to start this trend was the coach of Dartmouth, Buddy Teevens. He made this risky call all the way back in 2010 when the injuries for the Dartmouth Big Green football team were beginning to mount.
Before the ban was taken into effect, his team had a startling 20 concussions all season. The year after, there were just a few injuries that the Dartmouth players had to endure. Not only have the dangerous, fearful head injuries declined after the change, but so have all of the neck, back and shoulder ones.
Coach Teevens runs a non-traditional practice where the players learn to tackle on a “virtual dummy.” The device is built like a football player, as it has a 5 foot 11-inch build, weighing in at 200 pounds. The device can even “run” a 4.8 second 40 yard dash. The realistic structure of the dummy actually has helped the Dartmouth football team in terms of success, but safety isn’t the sole purpose of the dummy. The Dartmouth coaching staff has used it to teach their athletes how to tackle without contact to the head. As a result, the new tackling technique has reduced the number of missed tackles by half, according to the head coach.
In addition to their better tackling, Big Green has come away with a better record each of the past three seasons. In 2013, they came in third place in the Ivy League division, second the following season, and tied for first the year after. Mr. Teevens stated, “It hasn’t hurt our level of play. It’s actually made us a better team. Winning the championship this year legitimized it.”
Because of the higher productivity and greater strength of the Dartmouth football team, all seven other Ivy League schools have decided to ban contact practices. In general however, football as a whole seems to be undergoing a monumental change. The National Football League has reduced each team’s maximum number of contact practices to only fourteen a season. A majority of the professional teams do not even reach that number because of the risk of injury.
Big-name football players such as Calvin Johnson, Justin Smith and Marshawn Lynch announcing their early retirements, and movies like, “Concussion,” coming out is causing a stir of controversy that got many to question about the safety of the game when brought to the table. Certain high schools across the country don’t plan to just take away tackling practices, but plan to get rid of their football teams.
Pop Warner football has taken similar precautions, and a majority of the coaches have taken away drills where there is a lot of head-butting. Just recently, Pop Warner settled its first concussion case of $2 million that could forever change the game of youth football. The family suing after the suicide of their kid, Joseph Chernach, who at the very young age of 25 died from a brain disease from repeated concussion-related issues that led to many mental health problems. According to ESPN, “saw participation drop 9.5 percent between 2010-12…Pop Warner lost 23,612 players, thought to be the largest two-year decline since the organization began keeping statistics decades ago.”
In an effort to find ways to create a safer environment for kids, while also keeping the principle of football, many parents are voluntarily removing their kids from tackle football, and have turned to flag football instead. A flag football league called, “NFL Flag,” now has 265,000 children that participate, a number that is rapidly rising. Because of the rising concern that looms over the NFL, and the innovations that are being made, football could be a transformed sport in the near future.
Source: Bleacher Report