In recent years, awareness of the long-term effects of head injuries, specifically concussions, has been plunged to the forefront of sports news. The sport that has been affected by it the most is football, in particular the Nation Football League (NFL), but this is only the beginning.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) has started to change their game as well to make it safer, especially with contact to the head. Any contact to a player’s head by a defender is a foul and is automatically reviewed to see if it can be upgraded to a flagrant foul.
Many fouls that were considered “hard fouls” in previous years are now being reviewed and often called as either flagrant one or flagrant two fouls. A flagrant one foul is deemed as unnecessary and a flagrant two foul is considered unnecessary and intentional. Both fouls constitute a technical free throw and possession of the ball for the team that had the foul committed against them, but a flagrant two is also an automatic ejection for the offending player.
These are the first two sports to make major changes that have altered the way players play the game, but they will not be the last. The awareness is spreading, and will eventually cause other professional leagues to follow suit.
The next sport I see that is due for a change is hockey, and it will start with the National Hockey League (NHL). While there are already rules in place to try and prevent unnecessary hits to the head, there are still archaic parts of the game that will probably change soon.
The movement against ending fighting in the NHL has been being fought for what seems like forever, and the fight may be over soon. With the scariness of concussions going all through the sports world, it only makes sense that a sport that allows players to stop play and punch each other in the head would undergo a change.
I feel like the next step will be to outlaw fighting and make the offense an automatic ejection and a game suspension to follow. This would take the rate of fights down to a drastic level. My fear is that only getting rid of fighting will not be enough for the enthusiasts of the “prevent concussions” movement.
For the ones who want to figure out a way to end concussions in sports for good, the act of eliminating fighting will be perceived as only a good gesture instead of a preventative measure. They will push to have all body checking outlawed, especially hits against the boards. They will want to see stoppages of play and penalties assessed to anyone doing these things.
Hockey will just be one of the sports that will be fundamentally changed. Soccer will outlaw head balls, lacrosse will outlaw body checking, baseball/softball will outlaw head first slides, and all fighting sports (boxing, MMA, wrestling) will be on the chopping block as sports in general. And these are just the sports that Americans play frequently.
International sports like Rugby and Aussie Rules Football will be the next to feel the changes once the USA goes into full safe-mode. Both of those sports being more violent without wearing any protection will be under immense pressure to change and may cease to exist under these future guidelines.
This article may seem like a bit of an overstatement, but it is where we are heading in all the major contact sports. Youth levels of these sports will all lose participants drastically as the changes take effect around the whole sports world and every sport will cease to be what we know them as currently. So I suggest we enjoy them while they last.