NFL Player Safety: Football is a violent sport, but…

posted in: NFL | 22
Share Button

The NFL settled it’s lawsuit with retired players. The following is from the page:

“The NFL has reached a tentative $765 million settlement over concussion-related brain injuries among its 18,000 retired players, agreeing to compensate victims, pay for medical exams and underwrite research. With the lawsuit the NFL isn’t admitting to being the reason the players were injured”.

TonyDorsettMore than 4,500 players sued the league, accusing it of concealing the dangers of concussions and rushing injured players back onto the field while glorifying and profiting from the kind of bone-jarring hits that make for spectacular highlight-reel footage. One of those players was Dallas Cowboys legend Tony Dorsett; his photo was on the front-page of many small newspapers throughout the country. This is not the kind of public relations news the NFL and Roger Goddall want. But, this is not the only issue facing the NFL and it’s players’ safety.

Part of the problem with concussions is the helmet itself. The vast majority of football helmet manufacturers still use polycarbonate shells. This material was banned by the auto racing community in 1974. Although football players don’t go as fast as race car drivers, the football world could learn a thing or two about safety from the racing world. In auto-racing, drivers face much harder impacts and more intense G-forces than football players, yet race-car drivers have much fewer problems with concussions than NFL players. You have to ask yourself: why is that?

car crashHow can a race car driver crashing at 160 MPH not get concussed, yet a football player going 15-18 MPH does?

The number one reason is G-force. A heavier helmet causes much more head rotation on impact. A lighter helmet reduces the degree of head rotation therefore reducing the chance of injury. Lighter helmets also reduce G-force because the neck has less weight to support.

There are now football helmets being made that reduce weight and the possibility of injury. They are made by the SGHelmets  company, founded by Bill Simpson. 

bill simpsonSimpson has been involved in safety for auto racing since 1958. They now manufacture a helmet that is much lighter than the polycarbonate ones currently in use by most football helmet manufacturers. The Simpson helmets use a proprietary blend of materials that include Carbon Fiber and Kevlar; they contain no plastic.

If this helmet is so much better, why aren’t more players using it at all levels, especially in youth leagues?

At least part of the reason is that the NFL typically doesn’t react until after serious injuries are sustained by big-name players. Football is a violent game and every year someone has a serious injury that puts their careers in question. This year it was Dustin Keller: he tore his MCL, ACL, PCL and dislocated his kneecap in a pre-season game.

keller hitThe hit was legal, yet Keller was seriously injured. The NCAA now has the target rule: if the referee believes players targeting/contact defenseless opponents above the shoulders they will be ejected. The change increases the on-field penalty for targeting by adding the automatic ejection to the existing 15-yard penalty.

The NFL usually reacts after injuries rather than before. I would expect that the NFL will narrow where you can tackle/hit a player. As it stands now you can’t hit a player above the shoulders, you also can’t hit a defenseless player. If there are any other leg injuries this year that are serious and involve high-profile stars, the NFL may institute rules to govern tackling or hitting below the waste.

horse collarThe NFL has a history of failing to be proactive. A good example of this is the horse collar tackle rule. The “Roy Williams” rule was a reaction to Roy Williams’ tackling of Terrell Owens which resulted in injury. This occurred in 2004. Owens wasn’t the only player injured that year, there were 5 other players injured  by the horse collar tackle. The NFL finally voted, on May 23, 2005, to ban the tackle.

Simpson is trying to get more players using it’s helmets, but it’s like a new car manufacturer trying to compete with the big three auto makers in Detroit. It’s an uphill battle, but one that needs to be won. If we are to keep the NFL, which obviously we love or you wouldn’t be on this site reading this article, we need to not only make it safer without taking away all the fun of the big hits, but also use the safest equipment being manufactured today regardless of who makes it.


When I first heard about the helmets being made by Simpson, I did a little research. I am not a doctor, but it looks like the game of football in the Unites States could significantly reduce the number of concussions simply by forcing players to wear the helmets being made by SG Helmets. You can’t eliminate concussions completely,  just as you can’t stop football from being violent. Players want to be safer, but they still want the violence of the game. Most have been playing since they were young boys and play because they love the violence of the game. We don’t have to lose the the violence of the game, but we should make it safer.

youth helmet

Check out the SG Helmet website. They have great videos explaining the material they use to manufacture their helmets, and videos explaining both the youth and adult helmets. Take five minutes to watch them; we will be shocked if you don’t want your child wearing an SG Helmet.


You can check out SG Helmets on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter.

Click here to follow JeffK on twitter.

Click here to follow YDCFF on twitter, and here to follow us on Facebook.

Share Button

  • C. Joseph Wright

    Great story Jeff. I had never heard of SG Helmets. I am intrigued. It seems impossible that a superior product at a reasonable price, especially when it could improve safety) could be so widely unknown (ignored). I am gonna check out the videos. Thanks.

  • californy

    I wonder if G force should be use as a combine stats to get better tacklers and bone crushing hits on this team. I would like to get more physical player but the NFL will frown at this. Good Article Coach, it so interesting that the Racing Industry is so more proactive with player safety than the NFL who makes tons of money.

  • californy

    I think the size of NFL player should be limited to 350 lbs. They use to do this for Kids playing in the smaller league. There should not be no player over 350 lbs it cant be good on his body at all.

  • guest

    We bought my son, who is 15 and a sophomore in high school, an SG Helmet. I would not put him out on the field in anything but an SG Helmet. The people at SG have been awesome to work with and the cost of the helmet is a small price to pay for his safety.