Friday, July 23, 2010

Padder Up!

Padder Up!

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Despite the frequent complaints about player safety, I find it interesting how resistant the players themselves are to changes in safety technology. Take the Riddell helmets designed to minimize concussions — which have been proven to reduce instances of head trauma from high school on up. Yet, despite the vast resources of both players and the league very few players actually use the helmets — despite the concerns about head trauma and its impact later in life, and on careers – like that of Casey Fitzsimmons, ended this year.

Worldwide, and average of 8% of competitors at Taekwondo tournaments are injured as per the WTTU. Most commonly this is leg injuries with bruises leading by a large margin. Despite this, it is interesting how many seemingly rational adults don’t wear any non-required equipment (shin guards are optional). For example, I was participating at a tournament with the pink lions earlier this year. My ring of competitors (Men, age 30 – 39, equal ranks) had 10 participants. We’re all middle age men with kids in the sport. We all have normal jobs. Only two of us were wearing the optional forearm and shin pads. I asked one of the guys why he wasn’t – and he said “I’m slow enough without that stuff on.” I lost to the eventual winner in the semi-finals, and won the 3rd place match. We were the two guys wearing the optional pads.

Yup. They sure slowed us down all right.

Don’t get me wrong — it would be a lot easier to move without any protective gear at all. Until about 2 seconds into the match when you get hit for the first time. Same thing applies in Football. There is a fine line between performance and safety. No one wants to be out on the field looking like the poor kid from “A Christmas Story” stuck in the starfish position. But you can’t play the game in shorts and a T-Shirt either.

I bring this up because the NFL is running a test of some new additional padding in the preseason to see how it works, with the intention of possibly making it part of the required padding. I’m curious to see if any Lions will be included, and how this all plays out. Many RB and WR, CB — they don’t wear most of the optional pads to retain speed and full maneuverability. In a league where the tiniest of fractions can make a difference on a play, I can’t see players adopting this voluntarily no matter how well it works at preventing injuries because of the perceived loss of competitive edge — real or imagined. The NFL will need to make it mandatory for it to work.

Considering all the Lions players that have been lost to injury — leading the league in IR size for at least 4 different seasons in the last 12 years alone — anything to help with safety that reduces injury without tilting the competitive balance would be welcomed by fans. And should be welcomed by players.

Rating: 10.0/10 (3 votes cast)

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