Will taking away helmets and pads completely eliminate concussions from the sport? Of course not. Rugby and Aussie Rules Football are played without any padding or helmets but still have plenty of issues with head injuries. However, we don’t see nearly as many high-profile cases of former players committing suicide or being diagnosed with early onset dementia.
Would people still watch football without the helmets and pads?
I’m sure it would be difficult for most people to accept such a dramatic change. Plenty would see it as another example of “softening” American culture. Others would see it as a different sport entirely. As a fan myself, I would have a hard time adjusting to a game that would look so incredibly different from the one I grew up watching.
We have to ask ourselves — what price are we willing to pay to indulge in what is really a form of entertainment? This sport is and will always be violent, but what level of brutality are we willing to accept before we transform the game?
“Better” helmets won’t save the sport. No helmets just might.
Rory O’Toole writes the Thursday column on the transformation of athletes and sports media into the cultural conversation. Contact him at [email protected].