The National Football League is signaling that it will get tougher with players for dangerous and flagrant hits on the field, particularly helmet-to-helmet blows to the head.
The league says that, beginning with this weekend’s games, unnecessarily dangerous hits will be cause for suspension, the Associated Press reports. The NFL also meted out unusually stiff fines to three players for violent hits this past weekend.
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who the NFL labeled a repeat offender, was docked $75,000. New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather and Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson each were tagged for $50,000. Robinson launched himself head first into a tackle that left both him and another player, DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles, with concussions.
In all, at least five players Sunday and Monday left the field with concussions.
In an interview with the ESPN radio show Mike & Mike in the Morning, Ray Anderson, the NFL’s vice president of football operations, said that increasingly dangerous tackling techniques have contributed to the surge in head injuries. “The fundamentally old way of wrapping up and tackling seems to have faded away,” Anderson said.
The NFL’s actions follow increasing concern about medical research that has linked football players’ head injuries to debilitating, premature dementia later in life. As reported in GQ and The New Yorker, Andre Waters and Mike Webster are just two of the former stars whose retirement from the NFL was followed by a steep decline in a mental well-being that culminated in death at young ages.
In both cases, researchers have linked the mental health problems to brain injuries suffered while in the NFL. Concussions, and their consequences, also have emerged as a growing concern for competitors in youth sports leagues.