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Baseball Takes Action to Prevent Injuries, While Football Still Does Nothing

Baseball Takes Action to Prevent Injuries, While Football Still Does Nothing

Sports fans love a close game or a bitter rivalry. They want to see competition and extraordinary effort. But no one wants to see athletes get hurt, right?

Wrong. Hockey fans are notorious for cheering louder when players punch each other than when they score goals. Now even the relatively low-contact sport of baseball is bringing violence junkies out of the woodwork.

The spark for the latest debate over how much protection professional athletes should have from injury is a push by Major League Baseball (MLB) to reduce the number of collisions between catchers and base-runners at home plate. That sounds like something everyone could get behind, yet 61% of voters in an ESPN.com poll are “not OK with” the reforms MLB is considering. ESPN.com laid out some of the potential new rules:

• Catchers will not be allowed to block home plate.

• Runners will not be permitted to target the catchers.

• The question of whether or not the plate was blocked or the runner targeted the catcher will be reviewable, with an immediate remedy available to the umpires.

• Catchers or runners who violate the new rules will be subject to disciplinary action.

I don’t follow baseball, so perhaps it doesn’t mean much that I don’t see the big deal about these changes, but it seems to be a big deal for people like Pete Rose. He told the L.A. Times derisively that the hitters already “wear more armor than the Humvees in Afghanistan,” and worried, “What’s the game coming to?”

The National Football League (NFL) is on the same side of the fence. It has been dealing with (or dodging) the problem of players’ injuries for quite a while, even settling a lawsuit by former players for $765 million. That number is high because the head injuries football players suffer during games are grievous and have clear scientific evidence showing the link between the injuries and the consequences. Multiple hits to the head can cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which can bring with it dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and suicide.

To appear that it is doing something to fix the problem, the NFL allocated $10 million of the settlement to experiments that bash in the heads of dogs and other animals to no useful purpose. The payments notwithstanding, the league’s official line is that hitting your head over and over doesn’t cause lasting damage, as s.e. smith reported on Care2 Causes. Smith explains why the NFL refuses to take some obvious steps to protect players:

[F]ans have a very firmly conceived notion of what football should look like and how it should be played. Moves to make it safer, like limiting legal tackles, changing helmet design and thoroughly assessing athletes after head injuries and before their return to play, could incite backlash from fans.

ESPN’s poll about baseball rules confirms smith’s diagnosis, with the majority of fans opposing safety.

Selfish, sadistic fans or no, the MLB seems to be serious about safety. The L.A. Times reports that the only question about the reforms is when they will take effect. If the players’ association agrees, that could happen next season. If they don’t, it could happen the following year.

Sports commentator Tom Verducci articulated the very basic morality that MLB is exhibiting here.

Think about it: if you were inventing the game of baseball today, would you allow a guy to be barreling down [a catcher]? A 250-pound guy, 220-pound guy running around full-speed into a catcher who is just, let’s face it, he’s a defenseless receiver equivalent in the NFL. Why would you allow it?

Baseball won’t allow it much longer. If only the NFL viewed things this clearly.

Related Stories:

9 Football Players Killed By Brain Trauma

Dogs Suffer Useless, Painful Experiments at the Hands of the NFL

NFL Won’t Admit That Bashing Your Head Constantly is Harmful

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66 comments

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11:43AM PST on Jan 28, 2014

Here are the rosters: 1960
http://www.texassports.com/sports/2013/6/28/FB_1960_Roster.aspx?id=70

The 2013 roster:

http://texassports.com/roster.aspx?path=football

11:38AM PST on Jan 28, 2014

This writer knows nothing about the sports. Football is a contact sport. Players are bigger,faster,stronger and better coached. Kinetic force is multiplies by mass. Just Google the football rosters of say 1960 and today. Notice how small and slow those players were.

3:17PM PST on Dec 18, 2013

Poor article. The author doesn't know baseball or football.

11:09PM PST on Dec 17, 2013

@Jennifer Please study the rules of the game. It is illegal to try to tackle the quarterback in the pocket by tackling below the knees. It is a personal foul and the player pays a hefty fines is also illegal to try to tackle someone by flailing your leg at the players' legs. Please people- do some research! Remember- it is better to be quiet and thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.

11:05PM PST on Dec 17, 2013

They are all consenting adults in a physical, high-contact sport. The title is 100% false. If you truly know nothing about what you are saying, take a look at the equipment and rules of football of 40 years ago compared to today. Every year there are new rules about the type of contact allowed. In fact, if you listen to some payers, especially defensive players, the rules are reaching the point where they can't even really play the game anymore. Do some research before you spout out nonsense and misleading information.

2:57AM PST on Dec 17, 2013

I think it's pretty deplorable that the NFL gets away with studies that include bashing the heads of dogs to see what the results are. Such studies already exist with all the ex-NFL players suffering some sort of brain damage. And on a side note, why can't the all-powerful NFL stand up to the NRA and use their power to promote tougher gun laws and safety? With the NFL players who have been killed or involved in a killing, or accidently shot themselves in the leg, it might behoove the NFL to want to reduce gun violence.

2:25AM PST on Dec 17, 2013

Can't understand why you call it "footbal"l when feet don't seem to have much to do with it. How about "bargeball" ? or "flatten-the-opposition-ball"?

6:16PM PST on Dec 16, 2013

I do watch sports but not avidly.

The only thing I have seen/heard the NFL do is to make changes in the rules for tackles/hits to the head. So now, instead of the guys trying to "knock out" players, they are trying to take out knees for more instant and permanent injuries. Where is the improvement? Maybe core body tackles only? I also think that instead of giveing notariety to the "dirtiest players", do something about it. Yank them instead of pedistalling them. Then they are suing NFL for injuries they knew they would be having. I don't get it - how are they allowed to sue?

Baseball does need to try to protect catchers but that is a no win situation also. Runners will always try to take out a catcher blocking the plate, catcher doesn't block the plate, easy run. I think runners should only be allowed a head first slide. This may save a few major collisions at the plate.

3:23PM PST on Dec 16, 2013

If I had to watch a sport, it would be baseball.

12:55PM PST on Dec 16, 2013

Any sport that requires any level of violent contact, i.e., football tackling, boxing (which to me was never, ever a sport) or any "contact" sport has the potential for damage. I knew a fellow who played football in high school for one season and tore up his knees so badly that he had 4 knee surgeries on each knee. Needless to say, his knees are now in horrible condition.

Some folks think soccer is safe, but it is not; every time a person hits the ball with his/her head that person is causing damage.

What is most serious is the brain damage that is happening. Protection must come first.

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