Is it just a matter of time?

Bigger players. Faster players. When combined this may well spell disaster in the CFL or NFL.....eventually. Scouts are looking for bigger players who are faster. Imagine a guy who is 350+ and is able to run the 40 in 4.5 seconds bearing down on you. Good grief. Get out the tylenols and a stretcher.

In the CFL I'm only aware of the death of Tom Pate [Hamilton] during a 1975 CFL game. I remember watching the game on TV and seeing the hit he took from Rick Galbos [Calgary]. Pate did not die as a result of being hit by a huge and fast opponent In fact Galbos was only 205 pounds at the time. Pate suffered a brain aneurysm after hitting his head on the turf. However with the number of concussions and mammoth hits that players are having to take from much larger and faster players it makes one wonder if it is just a matter of time before the CFL or the NFL sees its first fatality directly attributed to the hit itself.

Some might say that the sport is already dangerous and has been dangerous for years and that if hit just right a guy would get killed. Perhaps true. I understand that but that is not what I'm saying. I'm questioning whether or not the current rules and equipment are keeping up with the guys coming up in the CFL and NFL. I've no idea what changes need to be made to protect the players more but I'm really beginning to wonder if a fatality is just a matter of when and not if.

I enjoy seeing a smash in the mouth hit [in a manner of speaking], like anyone else, provided it is a clean hit. I think most of us love to see it while still hoping to see the guy get up and go back into the huddle. Certainly the players are willing to literally put life and limb on the line for the big bucks. Some are willing to do it for the small bucks as well. But.....are we going to far just to be entertained?

NHL is going the same way. Take away the helmets in Hockey and big instant change.

In football you lead with the head. It is up to the players to respect and police themselves. Respect for each other and realize that the league is best served (and thier jobs) by fast pace safe quality players to make it an exciting game.

It definitely is the Helmets. Players are taught to lead with their helmet. Back in the day of leather Helmets, players had to tackle similar to what current Rugby players do. In fact Rugby was the original name. Remember the ORFU.
But somehow I can't see the present NFL and CFL reverting back to leather Helmets.

With regards to this question and football - I don't think so. As more and more info is being gained with respect to concussions and the long term effects of repetitive head trauma in chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), you'll eventually start seeing changes in the way physical sports such as hockey and football may be played. Those changes won't be seen immediately with current crop of players, instead it will come in another generation or maybe two with different coaching. Take for instance leading with the head on making a football play. That type of play has been ingrained in a lot of todays players and its instinctual and no amount of fining players will stop that. But if we start teaching kids not to do that it can be phased out of the game.

With regards to your question about what can be done to protect the players, I posted this article in another thread that raises some interesting questions about football, concussions, and the rules by which the game is played. One of the ways to mitigate the whole bigger faster players issue is to expand the playing surface like the CFL for football. There are, per capita, fewer concussions, or rather fewer reported concussions in the CFL than the NFL. The style of play in the CFL doesn't necessarily allow for guys to tee off with head shots as often as is possible on a more restrictive playing surface like the NFL field. The article also brings up several other possibilities such as the one yard off the ball helping keep linemen from hitting head to head less often. In another thread it was pointed out how the NFL game is becoming a bit more like the CFL, I think eventually if the data on the CFL style game and concussions bears out the NFL will have to become even more like the CFL in order to save itself.

Now with the Seau family suing the NFL, if they should win their suit that could have huge repercussions for sports such as football and hockey in a shorter time frame. What I don't get is why football, hockey, and boxing are taking the brunt of the attack regarding concussions and brain injuries, but I feel like MMA has gotten a relative free pass on the issue so far. Talk about repetitive blows to the head and concussions.

The NFL to its credit did act quickly since 2010 to retrain current players, by many a means, to lower their aiming points on hits. For the most part, the efforts have succeeded.


Going a step further, outright blows to the head or neck of a standing player, whether or not with a helmet, just need to be outlawed altogether. All hits to standing players must be from the shoulders down with of course the quarterback protected at the knees or below and certain low blocks outlawed.

I've seen too many a play stand without penalty, as is the case now, when any given tackler just draped himself around the ball-carrier's neck without resorting to the horse collar. That's still dangerous play too. In fact the neck is more vulnerable than the protected head that everyone is talking about!

Of course if the player ducks his head, it's a different matter but you still should not be able to wrap around his neck with your arms or throw a padded forearm to his helmet or neck. Somehow they got rid of the clothesline move decades ago, but they did not outlaw any other hits to the neck. Why not?

We have to grant though that even a wicked helmet-to-helmet hit after the offensive player dropped his head cannot be avoided.

[url=] ... n-tackling[/url]

It's a few years slow in simplifying the matter compared to the complicated rules the NFL began with in 2010, but Goodell is explaining the matter in simpler terms now.

The bottom line is that no tackling should involve the head but for limited exceptions for incidental contact.

We have to grant though that even a wicked helmet-to-helmet hit after the offensive player dropped his head cannot be avoided.
Following up to my comment below as copied, at least now in the NFL it is also a penalty for an offensive player to lead with the crown of his helmet. Leading with the head up and front of the helmet and/or face mask is still okay even if the player is headed in a downward direction.

The NFL got this one right too despite all the howls from running backs.

Like in 2010, the players can and will adjust except for a few who were always dirty players.

Taking helmets away in hockey is a stupid idea. The main reason why concussions are up, players are so much faster ,bigger and stronger. Plus the elbow and shoulder pads are like armor. Players were just as dirty back in the day, it's a romantic notion it was clean hockey. With not every game being televised , all sorts of dirty and cheap stuff went on. Now, with every game televised, every angle covered and two refs, its as clean as its going to get. Wayne Maki and Teddy Green had a stick swinging fight which almost cost Teddy Green his life and left him with health issues long after. Football is the same way, the players in the old days were out of hand, eg, Mosca, Dobler,and any Raider from that era !

Hockey will, and shouldn't I don't think, ever take away the open ice smackem collision hit that is all perfectly legal, elbows down and no going after the head with the shoulder pads. We see this in football as well of course, maybe more, and we all love it. For now, hockey and football are collision sports and anyone playing these sports knows what they're in for. Of course, some like Kevin Sommers at Raise the Hammer in Hamilton, because he didn't get his way with a West Harbour Stadium and therefore has a hate-on for Bob Young and the Cats and David Braley and doesn't get controlled violence in sport, says the NFL can get away with it with there money and good luck CFL and presumably all amateur football as well. I don't think money can buy that though if that's what he's getting at. Who is going to sue all amateur football where concussions etc. happen as well, or amateur hockey?

Good by Kevin Somers

[i]Brain rattling hits are good for the football business, but brain injuries aren't good and football causes them, in abundance. There are thousands of former football players suing the NFL. From a CNN article: "Lawyers representing the NFL players cited dementia, depression, reduced cognitive ability, sleeplessness, early-onset Alzheimer's, and a debilitating and latent disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy as some of the specific injuries caused by head trauma in the NFL." Good Heavens.

Mike Wilbon, a host on ESPN's Pardon The Interruption (PTI), recently said, "The NFL, no, professional football is in a lot of trouble." The best show on television, PTI is a good way to waste half an hour.

There are many good minds, with good insights, who claim, with good reason, the NFL can't survive its own violence. The N.F.L. generates $9 billion a year. Good luck, CFL.[/i]

I do agree, and am not implying helmets should go away, but of all people Don Cherry made a really good point on this a number of years back...every time you beef up ppe/padding/protection the players take more liberties. As he put it, years back there was a respect that you didn't hit a guy full out in the you do. High sticking has went up by insane proportions since more and more padding was added...thankfully they are finally stemming that.

These stupid new stick get so much velocity that goalies are splitting their fingers, yet people question the goalie pad size....try taking away the graphites.

IMO one of the biggest issues with contact sports (hockey / football, but especially hockey) is padding. Pads are made hard now, with the theory that it will magically protect. Your brain is in within the womb of your skull, but you don't need direct contact to shake it egg in a glass can be broken by impact to the glass even though it has the glass shielding. The point being that just because you put a hard membrane around something, that does not protect the inside, and now all you have done is made shoulder pads that feel like you are being hit by a brick. Make pads that are pads, not is not supposed to be is supposed to cushion direct impact, not attempt to block it out...what was a noble cause in equipment development has backfired. You also give that big bruiser the ability to hit full out more, where as if he had 'pads' instead of 'armor' the hits effect him a little more to.

Very well stated depopulationINC! I enjoyed reading that. :thup:


I know they make lots of changes, especially in hockey, to make it a more action packed game…higher paced, more goals, etc…but some of their decisions away from the actual game-time rules are perplexing. Scoring is down, which is not good for the average fan…yes I know, there is more to any sport than just the score, but A LOT of people tune in for the thrill of that. People love that all-time records are in real jeopardy, but in hockey especially, scoring records are generally secure due to the big downturn in scoring.

They make people brick sh!t houses, so agile players are a little less prone to make plays that leave them open to a hurting. I think of some of the great plays of all time from guys live Orr and Savard…those amazing spins between the blue line and the inside f/o circle, shoulder down sliding around the D…no helmets…would they do that now, even with helmets…HELL NO…they wouldn’t make it 1 season. The pads are just too hard.

these stupid composite are often referred to as the great equalizer…the one single hockey technology that has made good shots great, and the hardest shots become dangerous. These things are prone to shattering with the slightest scratch…and when they do they can just grenade…it is amazing you don’t hear of more injuries…but look it up, they are definitely out there! Some day one of these is going to explode in someone face in the NHL…it is a matter of time. I think it is funny…so many players grew up giving those little taps to another player’s stick…you see that is declining pretty fast now because the damned things break and then it is an easy penalty.

Goalies see shots 15-20% faster than they did before. I am not sure if you have ever faced a at 90mph…but you see it leave the stick, and you see it at the net…the first and last 15 or so %…now anyone in the NHL can likely shoot over 90 with these sticks, several break 100 when only a few years back breaking 100 made you one hell of a big gun. The goalies have had no choice but to beef up equipment for both safety, and to give them a fighting chance…restrict the stupid sticks and reduce the goalie padding size.

For head shots and what not…go towards international rules…they have stemmed that kind of play big time.

This is the kind of stuff that will open up the game…not disallowing goalies to play the puck deep to limit trap effectiveness, not cutting the corners off of the crease. Make the players feel safe so they can use their skill set more liberally. Penalize the hell out of high risk play (hits/sticking/hooking)…powerplays equate to more goals, and eventually cleaner play.

I know reducing pad armoring increases the ‘goon’ factor, but I would rather see a few more goons than every player out there being able to knock someone out coming over the middle with a head down because they where what may as well be metal pads.

Say what!

I have never ever ever heard this before.

The only players that leads with a helmet is a tackler and rusher, and there are extremely fundamental practices to avoid head injury from tackling. A rusher rarely actually leads with a helmet...basically when hitting the turf / going down, in which case 95% of the time they are already essentially tackled, and there are again basic fundamentals to minimize risk.

I have several friends that coach at jr levels and I help out a fair amount, generally making 2-3 practices a week at various teams. I have seen kids getting benched for tackling/leading with eyes down (leading with helmet). when I started playing football it was the same, as it is anywhere I have seen now.

Tacklers...Eyes on the belt / wasteline. You take em off, you are sat...period.
A - the belt buckle doesn't lie...let em do fancy foot work...the player goes with their center of gravity
B - if you have your eyes down, then your neck is likely tilted down. You hit someone helmet first and there is a damned good chance you break your neck or mess up a vertebrae
C - If your eyes are on the belt your head is tilted back. If your head is tilted back and there is a direct impact it is very unlikely to do real damage to your neck or vertebrae
D - If your eyes are on the belt, it is pretty easy to avoid a head first impact, even if they make a strange last second move. A head first impact would generally come from a 3rd player...and then see point C.
E - If you are standing more upright, it lowers your impact, making the chances of a helmet to helmet impact. If you keep your eye on the belt as you get really close natural motion from focusing on the buckle lowers your upper body so you are hitting on the lower side of the shoulder. The bigger risk when doing this is actually your lower back taking some extra impact abuse (nothing serious, just adds to gameday wear and tare), and it is a little more straining on the abs.

Point C applies to a rusher as well. Look out the back of the endzone...keep your head up when taking an impact.

Most head injuries I have seen are from a guy taking an oddball knee to the side of the head, a guy getting laid out and falling straight back....bouncing back of helmet on ground, and of course the scary helmet to helmet impacts...which leagues have been tweaking rules on for a while now because they know it is a serious issue.

Don't see a pile of head injuries on a standard play otherwise, though it of course happens.

I remember when I was a kid...Oklahoma was the first and last time I ever even thought about leading with my head. My coach grabbed me by the facemask and yelled 'AMAZING HIT" then "If I ever see you lead head down again you will never play again" he then went though these fundamentals I stated earlier. No matter how senile I get, it is one of those moments I will never forget.

Instilling this in kids is so important, and I think most coaches do it well.

The helmet issue in hockey is totally different. In hockey it's about protecting the head from high sticks and players falling heavily on hard ice or heads being smashed against the glass or boards. In football it's about leading with the helmet on tackles. Taking helmets away is probably the only way that injuries could be cut down, but we know it's not going to happen.
The new NFL rule with the offensive player "leading with the crown" is going to create a lot more penalties, and the problem is that it's going to be a judgement call and because it's a penalty the play won't be reviewable. A ball carrier instinctively puts his head down when he's going to be tackled, the ref is going to have to decide the position of his head.

totally yes. It will be bigger than the roughing the passer judgement call, at least to start. After a couple seasons players will learn the rule. The big issue is when a player has a tackler on him and natural momentum puts him head first. It will be very interesting, and there will will be an insane amount of people crying foul for a while.

What a fantastic comment! In regards to the analogy of the egg in a glass it's classic and basic physics.

Anyone else who has ever worn and worked with a ballistic/bullet-resistant vest on also knows that though it can stop some bullets from penetrating on occasion, you can still suffer severe injury and heavy internal bleeding such that you are still at risk of death due to the damage caused by the impact of a bullet to your torso.

The bottom line as is finally being examined more thoroughly only after all these deaths to former players is that the overwhelming focus on protection is not near enough. The point and nature of any and all impact must be considered and is finally being given a good examination largely due to the legal pressure at hand now in the US.

It's high time and well overdue for all sports to be even more proactive and not reactive on the matter of all hard hits to the head despite all the howls from some fans and some players about the new rules and so forth. The players do adjust, and the fans still show up en masse.

We heard those howls like now about rules changes back in 2010 when the NFL finally tightened up after all the injuries in Week 6 from the vicious hits that made for quite a spectacle, but guess what all adjusted to new rules and the fan base still grows!

I think football will be much easier to tweak as the mission of the game is more known and direct. Hockey, and I’m paraphrasing Ken Dryden in his book, forget the title off the top of my head, needs to figure out what it wants to be and that is from over 10 years ago and it’s still trying. Football knows more what it is than hockey and it will be very interesting to see what happens to hockey with the equipment, hitting which is not the main aspect of hockey like in football and hitting’s role and place in hockey is still fuzzy, fighting etc. Very different sports, agree.

Along with that comes sports like basketball and soccer, not direct contact sports, gaining in popularity as I think more and more parents may shy away from putting their kids into hockey and football. Although I have no kids, I would put my kid into football before hockey though as the game is also more disciplined and as I say, more known to itself than hockey.

Soccer is a non contact sport, but it is not brain injury free and the risk is deceiving because its considered non contact. The act of heading the ball requires at times to whip the head which causes the brain to also whip within the skull and CSF fluid causing microtrauma. The little microtraumas don't heal and can have a cumulative effect over time, leading to Chronic traumatic Encephlopath (CTE). Also as in football, in soccer there's direct head to head contact when two players impact when trying to head the ball simultaneously. Even simple impacts such as falling to the ground in football or soccer can produce these microtraumas. If you look at the statistics-

Football (.47 high school and .61 collegiate/1000 athletes), followed by girls soccer (.36 high schools and .63 collegiate/1000), than boys soccer (.22 high school and .49 collegiate/1000)- source -

from 2 studies of high school athletes:
Football - 64-77/100,000
boys ice Hockey - 5.4/100,000
Boys soccer - 19/100,000
girls soccer - 33/1000,00
source -

Soccer is safer than football, but not entirely risk free when it comes to head injury. I think the hockey numbers might be underreported, seems on the low side. When deciding on what sport to enroll your child in, it's important to know that there are no risk free sports. If you want to minimize the risk of head trauma to your child's developing brain you have to select leagues that prohibit physical impact, meaning no tackle football, no bodychecking hockey, soccer leagues that don't allow heading the ball.

Don Cherry is right. The evolution of sports equipment and the players has greatly increased the risk factors for head injury. Players in the new gear can really feel invincible at times. But one of the worst thing for head injury is parents and coaches who don't know how to balance their own competitiveness against the well being of their own kids. I've seen way too many kids knocked down and get up woozy, hand goes up immediately up to holding their head because it clearly hurts and yet the parent is yelling at the kid to be a man and get up and back in the play or shake it off and other parents yelling that the kid is soft. Concussions have a compounding effect, each one worse than the next, and more often than not kids who have had a concussion that should be removed from play and treated instead are sent back in minutes after the original injury. This will only increase their risk factor for further head injury as they get older. Concussions will never go away and the issue is multifactoral. Everything from coaching to parent education and increased assessment and proper care of children through pro athlete in sports to equipment design will all have to be addressed.

Super read wolverine. :thup: Didn't realize that about soccer to be honest. And yes, everything is a risk in life, sometimes I wonder travelling on the 401 or QEW with 5 or so 18 wheelers beside me or near me I guess is more accurate, on a slippery surface and idiots trying to dodge between, how safe am I?

The equipment is the main issue, the solution however isn't to go to Leather helmets, the solution isn't really complicated.

The solution is to either:
A) get rid of the hard plastic on the outside of equipment, this doesn't mean the old school leather but to use some of the new technologies to provide padding to players without making the padding a weapon like the current hard plastic pads do.

B) Put padding on both the inside AND outside of equipment, to lower the impact of pads/helmet on pads/helmet.

As for will a catasrophic injury happen, I don't think it will be in the CFL, it will happen in NFL both because they have ~4* as many games by having 32 teams vs. the current 8(soon 9) CFL teams along with the NFL game lends itself to more damaging style of game(hits + number of big hits) with the smaller field + bigger players.
The NFL has made a good move by trying to remove head on head hits, but as long as the hard plastic pads/helmets exist those devastating hits will continue.

just to get an idea how big a difference it is - take two current helmets(football or hockey) and swing them together and notice how bad the impact is, now take the same helmets and cover them with even some basic padding and notice much it lessens the impact of the two helmets together