As the NFL continues to look for ways to make the game safer, one way to make the game safer could come from a removal of one of the first significant pieces of football safety equipment.
Dr. John York, co-chair of the 49ers and chairman of the NFL’s health and safety advisory committee, believes that in the future helmets eventually could become a thing of the past.
“Can I see a time without helmets? Yes,” York told the BBC. “It’s not around the corner, but I can see it.”
York explained that removing helmets would require the elimination of the three-point stance, with linemen upright at the snap.
While the removal of helmets would reduce concussions that currently happen when players use those helmets as weapons, players who aren’t wearing helmets would be more prone to skull fractures via accidental collisions occurring at full speed. And skull fractures are far more likely to cause death than concussions.
The better approach would be to minimize opportunities for head involvement while still providing maximum protection from accidental contact. Switch to the two-point stance, ban all helmet-to-helmet hits, prevent players from launching in all situations, but keep the helmets on the players to guard against the inevitable elbows and knees and feet that routinely strike heads currently protected from being split open.
UPDATE 6:52 p.m. ET 6/20/15: The 49ers say that York’s comments were misunderstood, and that he does not believe the helmet will be removed from the game.