In the new issue of Sporting News, Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman addresses the NFL’s new sensitivity to head injuries.
And Aikman speaks from a position of authority; he admits that he suffered seven or eight concussions during 12 NFL seasons.
But he’s concerned that the league’s sudden interest in the issue could have unintended consequences. “My belief is that when you decide to play football — just like those who choose to be firemen or policemen — you are also accepting the inherent risks involved with the profession,” Aikman writes. “You may break some bones. You may tear up your knee. And you may suffer head injuries.”
We’ve often taken it a step farther. In America, 18-year-old men and women may choose to join the military. And they do so accepting the risk that they may die.
So why it is OK for kids barely out of high school to put their lives on the line and, suddenly, it’s not OK for grown men making in some instances more than $10 million per year to suffer concussions?
We’re not suggesting that the league should be reckless with the health of its players. But we agree with Aikman’s concern that, at some point, the game could change — both in the NFL and at lower levels of the sport.
So Aikman has suggested a radical possibility. Dump the helmets.
“For years,” he writes, “I’ve said the best way to eliminate head injuries is to take away helmets. Players would be a lot less willing to jump in and stick their heads in if their noggins weren’t protected.
“I used to say that tongue-in-cheek. But I’m starting to believe that’s a pretty good idea.”
Though we’re not prepared to agree with him on that point, we definitely believe that removing the risk from football is roughly as nearly as unrealistic as removing the bullets from war.