Oak Ridge, Sports, United States

Killer Sports

“If you can not go around the player go head first through him”( Chris Kielman, North Dakota State head Football coach).This was a typical saying coming from a football coach in the 1900s, who were all about their physical play and showing no mercy on their opponents.  Back then no one really knew what concussions were. Nowadays we have concussion protocols. A concussion is defined by a bang or hit to the head in which the brain takes cerebral damage. Concussions have affected people in the 20th century because of the lack of technology and not having adequate knowledge of what it really is. Today it is important to learn from the past and be well educated on concussion symptoms and proper protocol.

In America’s early history sports were still played but not nearly as many people went to watch them for fun.  During the 1920s this all began to change.  For the large majority, the 20s was a period of great social change.  The average person’s job began less time consuming and brutal giving American Society more wealth and time to spend watching sports.  Along with the social change in America; newspapers and magazines added to the hype of professional sports.  The most popular sports to attend during this time were boxing, football, basketball, and baseball.  Football is America’s sport imagine life on Sundays without our favorite Kansas City Chiefs dominating their opponent.

Today athletes are being paid 7 digits whereas in the 1800s sports were played purely for enjoyment and not for money.  One of the main reasons why athletes are getting so much today is because of the number of people who attend these events, and all the publicity around the sport. One reason sports were not as popular in the early 1900’s was that they did not have as many ways as there is now to advertise the sports games. Nowadays we have social media which makes the games go viral and this gets the fans fired up to watch their team play.

Could you imagine not having football, one of the biggest spectator sports in the nation? Well, this almost happened in the 1920s due to injuries, specifically concussions. In 1905 eight players died from playing football.  At this time the collegiate level was the highest level in the sport because the NFL had yet to be found.  There were many groups who supported the efforts to ban football but, Harvard’s president at the time, Charles W. Eliot was the leading factor to abolish football in the United States.  These groups got very close to doing so until Franklin D. Roosevelt got elected president of the United States of America.  To save football, President Roosevelt invited every man who had a say in what happened with NCAA football.  He kindly convinced them to changed a few rules in order to save the sport.  Some of these rules were first-yard distance changed to ten yards, neutral zone in the line of scrimmage, allowance of the forward pass, and no mass style tackling.  In a speech, Theodore Roosevelt stated that he supports rough games such as football which he considered manly.  He agreed that football was a dangerous game that caused too many deaths, but was determined to make it a safer sport and promised that deaths would not be occurring anymore because of football.  These rule changes kept the fun and excitement of football that everyone loves while making it a safer game.

In the 1920s, football was even more brutal and bruising than it is today.  For example in 1920, when the NFL was created, the hash marks on the field were quite a bit wider than they are today.  This may seem like a small rule change but it did a lot.  By narrowing these hash marks it gives the offense more space on both sides of the field to avoid incoming defenders.  This caused a lot less head to head contact which in turn reduced head injuries.  Another rule that dramatically made the game safer was made more recently.  This new rule called ‘targeting’ means that any player who targets another defenseless player in between the waist and shoulders will get ejected.  These rules are only two examples among many that helped make football a safer and more enjoyable game that we all know and love today.

Along with rule changes, new technology and innovations in protective equipment aided in making football a safer game.  Helmets were not even used in football games until 1893 when Navy played Army in Annapolis.  The first helmet was made out of leather straps and mole skin.  These first helmets were designed and made by players who wanted to be better protected.  The next big milestone in helmet innovation came in 1940 when Riddell created the first plastic football helmet.  Once synthetic materials and plastics became more mainstream and mass produced helmets became to look more and more similar to those used today.  The safer the helmet for the player to wear meant that it would be less likely for them to get a concussion and have brain damage later on in their lives.

Concussions are an injury that might not seem that bad, but can actually end up leading to death.  In the film “Concussion” the movie talks about how 6 hall of fame football players who had concussions throughout their career ended up committing suicide due to all the brain damage they had, the concussions they endured throughout their career slowly made their brain go crazy causing them to go mad and kill themselves. This became a huge discussion if football should be a sport anymore. They ended up making a whole lot of new rules to ensure this won’t happen anymore and that it will be a safer sport from here on out. One rule they created from this was no head to head contact, which would prevent people from going in head first into another player’s head. This would help prevent head injuries from here on out in football.

Football has always been known as a physical and dangerous sport, but that is why Americans love it. So doctors and worried citizens are not saying end America’s sport, all they are saying is make it safer so we all have fun watching it and making sure the players are safe at the same time.  Now that we are well educated on concussions we need to take the proper protocol and develop the best possible equipment to minimize the risks of concussions. Make sure if you are playing a contact sport to take a concussion baseline test. This test will determine if you have a concussion or signs of one and make sure you are a 100 percent healthy before playing your sport again. This will help prevent life along brain damage to our beloved athletes today.

Article by Ryan Carpenter and Ryan Rogers

Works Cited:

Klein, Christopher. “How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 6 Sept. 2012, www.history.com/news/how-teddy-roosevelt-saved-football.

“National Football League.” International Directory of Company Histories, edited by Tina Grant, vol. 29, St. James Press, 2000, pp. 345-347. U.S. History in Context, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX2843300100/UHIC?u=eld16218&xid=43df73c4. Accessed 26 Nov. 2017.

“The History of the Rules.” Evolution of the NFL Rules | NFL Football Operations, operations.nfl.com/the-rules/evolution-of-the-nfl-rules/.

“American Sports in the 1920s.” Sports in the 1920s: Baseball, Boxing, Football Sports Stars ***, www.american-historama.org/1913-1928-ww1-prohibition-era/sports-in-the-1920s.htm.

Daughters, Amy. “The Evolution of Football Equipment.” Bleacher Report, Bleacher Report, 12 Apr. 2017, bleacherreport.com/articles/1642538-the-evolution-of-football-equipment.

Greene, Bob. “The President Who Saved Football.” CNN, Cable News Network, 5 Feb. 2012, www.cnn.com/2012/02/05/opinion/greene-super-bowl/index.html.

One Comment

  1. I love your article! It was really opened my eyes to the history of America’s favorite sports. When we learned about Franklin Roosevelt in class we learned about the plan he had to bring the nation out of the great depression, but I had no idea he helped make football a safer sport. Growing up, I remember my brother Julian playing football and when he got hit in the head he had to get checked out for a concussion by a doctor. He ended up not having a concussion, but it was still pretty scary. I had no idea that some football players brains got so damaged that they killed themselves. Next season, the NFL is introducing a new safer helmet called the ZERO1. It features a pliable outer layer and an impact-absorbing core layer that cushions the wearer’s head against violent collisions. This will probably make the game even safer.