Saturday, March 12, 2011

Should the rules be changed for violent sports? Guys are dying from diseases caused from repeated concussions in sports like hockey and football. The referees won’t let a guy do a victory dance after a touchdown without a penalty of yards but they might let a direct hit with a helmet to a sensitive area go uncharged. The referees in hockey take their sweet time to break up a serious bloody fight. Is the violence the reason we support these games? Changing the rules might change its appeal.
Football is the team sport with the highest rate of concussions with hockey following as a close second in incidences of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Hockey player Bob Probert died from this type of concussion. There has been a rise in the concussion rate in hockey this season. What is the “fundamental nature” of hockey? Does it include checks to the head? Fighting? You see it at every game. Is it really against the rules? Can the game be boring without the violence? I’ll confess, I can’t stand boring car races until there is some deadly crash that I have to see in a replay too. Sorry.

Certain sports, like boxing and football, are intrinsically violent and probably cannot be made safe without sacrificing their true natures. It is almost impossible not to get hit in the head in football. In other sports like baseball what violence there is could be changed with an apology or better helmets without changing the game. In little league if a pitcher hits a batter with a fast ball we make the kids apologize and ask “Are you ok?” In the pro-leagues you are sure to see a fight with both benches of players in the middle of the chaos throwing punches. Aah! Professionals!
How essential is fighting to hockey? While fighting has been banished from youth games and is rare in European and international play, it is a significant part of the professional game in North America. The N.H.L. averages roughly one fight every two games. The most notorious minor league, the semipro Ligue Nord Americaine de Hockey in Quebec, averages 3.2 per game. Fighting draws fans. Fans eagerly wait for an act of retribution more than a goal. A player who is not an aggressive fighter is not that famous.
The majority of head trauma results from regular play. Concussion rates are high even in youth leagues where there is little or no fighting. According to a study published last year in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Alberta’s 8,800 11-12 year old players would suffer 400 fewer concussions each year if body checking were eliminated at that age. If the goal is to cut down on the rate of dangerous head impacts, hockey has a big advantage over football.
In hockey players can skate fast, check hard, stick-handle the puck and pretty much play a full game without anyone getting hit in the head. And yet it happens frequently. The N.H.L. records an average of roughly 75 concussions a year. That sounds like a underreported figure. The N.H.L. tried to address the issue of concussions at the start of the current season, adopting Rule 48, a measure banning blind-side checks to the head. But it still allowed shoulder checks to the head if they were delivered head-on. I say, you lift that stick above your waist you’re out of the game!!! I think I’ll get a concussion while getting thrown out of the arena if I dared to say something as safe as that!

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