In the NFL’s ongoing effort to reduce concussions, former Steelers receiver Hines Ward thinks helmets are doing more harm than good.
Ward said on the Dan Patrick Show that helmets are used more to allow players to deliver big hits than to protect players on the receiving end of big hits, and therefore players would suffer fewer concussions without helmets, as players would stop leading with their heads out of self-preservation.
“If you want to prevent concussions, take the helmet off: Play old-school football with the leather helmets, no facemask,” Ward said. “When you put a helmet on you’re going to use it as a weapon, just like you use shoulder pads as a weapon.”
Ward makes an interesting point, one that has been advocated by others. And it’s worth noting that while football helmets have been worn for decades, they’ve always been designed to protect the skull, not the brain. It’s only been recently that concussions and brain injuries have become the No. 1 point of emphasis in injury prevention in football, and people have begun to ask whether helmets, by allowing players to get into high-speed head-on collisions without cracking their skulls, may actually be encouraging players to play recklessly.
So then the question becomes: Are we willing to accept more skull fractures in exchange for fewer concussions? The NFL would probably say we should accept neither skull fractures nor concussions. Which is why the NFL has focused on ways of preventing concussions that don’t involve removing helmets.