Are protective sports gears adequate?

Football possibly ranks as one of the most dangerous sports. It is rivaled by boxing and ice hockey. What all these sports have in common is that the participants are allowed to hit, butt, punch, fight and tackle their opponents during the course of the game. Indeed, the participants engage in these activities throughout the game, sometimes unnecessarily. The consequences of these repeated physical and bodily contact mean the high risks of injury. While contact sports have been around for centuries (recall the days of the gladiators), the risks of injury have not changed much despite a variety of precautions introduced by organizers of the sports. These include the wearing of protective head gears such as helmets and knee pads.


If you have been attending football games including a few games that are on the Chicago bears schedule, you will see players wearing helmets and face masks as well as large shoulder pads to protect their upper body which includes the head. During the games, the players could be seen running into one another to tackle their opponents to gain possession of the ball, to stop their opponents from retrieving a pass or to break their run towards the touch down line with the ball. These collisions involve not only tackling the opponents by their legs but also frequent head collisions amongst the players. Although intentional head collisions which were a staple of the games in the past, they have been banned by the National Football League. However, these collisions, sometimes referred to as helmet-to-helmet collisions are still allowed if the collision are not intentionally such as when the players are running towards the ball and their helmets collide in the process.   Frequent and repeated head collision even with the protection of the helmet have resulted in severe injuries to to the players. This is due to the speed and force at which the players collide into each other.


The sudden impact despite the helmets and perhaps even because of the helmets is said to have caused brain injury in some players who repeated encounter such collisions in their pro football careers. The obvious purpose of wearing a helmet is for protection of the head. However, the force and impact of a collision between players wearing helmets cause the heads to knock against the helmets itself. Therefore, when two helmets collide with sufficient force and speed, the players’ heads are actually flung against their own helmets. This may cause sudden impact concussion. The symptoms of a sudden impact concussion are dizziness, nausea, disorientation and headaches. After some rest, these symptoms disappear and the player recovers.


However, if the player is constantly and repeatedly engage in helmet-to-helmet collisions, they are at high risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Post postmortem studies on the brains of deceased former football players have shown that they had suffered from CTE. The symptoms of CTE are almost of the same as those of sudden impact concussions except that they persist through repeated collisions during the career of the player. Thus, there is a progressive degeneration of the brain and even the nervous system. So the question remains whether protective gears do provide adequate safety.