Ever since Roger Goodell took over as the NFL commissioner, he has put an emphasis on player safety. Their main goal has been to eliminate helmet to helmet contact among players, fearing that this could lead to concussions. In game action earlier this preseason, a member of the Miami Dolphins was exposed to a negative effect of this rule.
In a preseason game on Aug.17 featuring the Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins, Miami tight end Dustin Keller caught a pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill and turned to run upfield. As Texans safety D.J. Swearinger went to tackle him, he went low and made contact with Keller’s knee. Keller was in pain and his injuries were officially a torn ACL, MCL and PCL, as well as a dislocated knee.
Several NFL players spoke out against that hit after it happened. Fellow NFL tight ends Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow Jr. said that they would rather be hit in the head than in the knee.
“It’s definitely more scary to get hit low,” St. Ambrose wide receiver Sam O’Donnell said. “As a player, when someone takes your legs out it’s scary. When someone’s going high you can at least see them coming, but when people go low you can’t really see them coming.”
The question of whether a football player would rather be hit in the head or the knee is a tough one for many to answer. Football players have their reasons for wanting to be hit in the head versus the knee. They may point to the fact that it takes a much longer time to recover from a torn ACL than it does from most concussions. Most players with concussions can recover in a week or two assuming they do not have any history of concussions. Most players with a torn ACL take close to a year’s time to completely heal. Just look at Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III as an example. On Oct. 7 of last year, he suffered a concussion against the Atlanta Falcons and was forced to sit out the remainder of the game. The next week he was not only able to play, but play at a high level. He accounted for 320 yards and three touchdowns in a home victory against the Minnesota Vikings. Now fast forward to the present. He has been rehabbing a torn ACL since he injured it in the wildcard playoff game against the Seahawks. When you think of it as one week versus eight months, their reaction is understandable.
While there are risks to hitting low, the NFL is headed in the right direction as far as player safety is concerned. With the news that the NFL recently reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed by former players over the effects of concussions they had when they played, it is clear that steps needed to be taken to increase the quality of life of the players after retirement.
“With how big and powerful some of these guys are, they definitely need to make some of these changes because someone is going to get killed playing out there,” O’Donnell said.