NFL Litigation May Forever Change Football

If you are a football fan, you have probably heard about the concussion/brain injury litigation against the NFL. The litigation has been going on for quite some time and seems to be growing with every passing week. We here at Abnormal Use first wrote about it way, way back in 2011. Two years later, there appears to be no end in site. While we have no idea when the litigation will end, we have a pretty good idea of how it might do so. More than likely, the numerous current and former player plaintiffs will find themselves the recipients of a hefty settlement. But the financial and legal ramifications of this suit should be the least of the NFL’s concern. We here at Abnormal Use fear that this litigation may put a nail in the coffin of football as we know it.

Before you criticize us for such draconian ideas, hear us out. Since the early days of football, the game has gotten safer as technology has evolved. Safety should always be a concern, and we encourage any equipment upgrades which can offer the players better protection. With that being said, however, we strongly oppose altering the game of football as we generally know it.

Undoubtedly motivated by the litigation, the NFL has revealed a number of new safety rules for the 2013 season, including a rule that prohibits ball carriers from initiating contact with the crown of the helmet. Likewise, the NCAA has instituted automatic ejections for helmet-first contact. For the naysayers, these new rules sound reasonable and prudent. For football purists, on the other hand, these rules are the first steps in the game’s demise.

As we stated back in 2011, football by its very nature is a dangerous sport. The players are bigger and more athletic than ever before. The NFL and the NCAA can and should continue to explore safer equipment alternatives to protect these athletes. But changing the rules in an effort to eliminate “dangerous” contact robs the game of its very essence. Sure, the new rules are aimed to lessen head injuries and may very well serve their purpose. We are concerned, however, of the slippery slope in store. Now that players can’t hit high, they have nowhere else to hit but low. With more lower hits, comes more season or career ending knee injuries. Football probably needs a rule to prohibit that, too.

Football is a contact sport; therefore, contact will happen. The only way to truly prevent injuries, short of dressing players in sumo costumes, is to do away with contact altogether. If the NFL continues to be overly reactive to the threat of litigation, football will become so regulated that it no longer resembles the sport we have come to love.


  1. So what is it that you so love about the sport? The style and grace with which a receiver leaps to catch a perfectly tossed spiral? A running back cutting left and right, slipping through a defender’s grasp? The cool of a quarterback in the pocket, scanning the field for a target or escape route? The defensive back waiting, waiting for the optimum moment to stop a runner or snag an interception?

    Or the dull thud of 300+ pound bodies slamming into each other, the sickening sight of a contorted arm or knee, the sound of players and fans whipped in a frenzy over more and more violence?

    Football can be a contact sport without being a series of train wrecks. But more rules, and more protective equipment, isn’t going to help. The only thing that will protect the players – and the game – is to abandon tradition (a tradition based on its origins as a schoolboy game). Play more than once a week. Get rid of rules that stop the clock for going out of bounds, or incomplete passes. Limit substitution. Coaches and players would quickly find that they have to play a different game if they’re going to survive without a week to recover. It would be a faster game, a more skillful game, and one that puts less reliance on bulk and meanness. And would give the bloodthirsty fans a game or two every night of the season.

    What’s the downside?