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Physicist, Startup Founder, Blogger, Dad

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Football is finished

The NYT reports that Ivy teams will limit themselves to only 2 full-contact practices per week. I was wondering when something like this would happen, given recent research on brain injuries in football.

According to the new rules, teams will be able to hold only two full-contact practices per week during the season, compared with a maximum of five under N.C.A.A. guidelines. On the other days of the week, practices cannot include contact or live tackles, and no player may be “taken to the ground.”

This means the overall skill development of Ivy players will be terrible. A player from a good high school program might actually regress in blocking and tackling technique during their college career!

I used to say that if I had a son I'd want him to play football. But if the recent research is confirmed I doubt I will let him. I guess that leaves wrestling or maybe MMA (grappling only) to toughen him up :-)

The difference between football, wrestling, boxing, etc. and wimpier sports like swimming, track, soccer, basketball, etc. is that in the more combative sports the other guy can make you want to quit. I played linebacker and I can remember tough SOBs at guard who would explode out of their stance and plant a helmet on my arm/shoulder every running play -- if it wasn't the guard then it was a fullback with a full head of steam. By the late quarters my upper arm was blue and I started to wish they would pass the ball so I could drop into coverage. A good running game does literally wear down the defense. Somehow the 100 breaststroke, even the state championships, didn't have quite the same intensity.

There is an aspect of mental toughness developed from facing down an opponent in a physical confrontation. West Point required incoming (male) cadets to learn boxing for over 100 years -- sticking your face where someone can hit it forces you to overcome some very primal fears.

... cadets learn war ethos and fear management. They build aggressive mind-sets. Not surprisingly, members of the [boxing] team choose front-line combat, mostly infantry, at a higher rate than any other group on campus.

“They see the bigger picture of what we’re getting these young men ready to do, of what this is all about in the long run,” Daniels said. “That fighting spirit, it starts here. It starts in the ring.”

13 comments:

rz said...

It seems to me that MMA has the same problems with brain injuries that football does.  The sport hasn't been popular enough for long enough for there to be research on it, though.  That said, I still want to start taking BJJ and Muay Thai before next year.

steve hsu said...

I wouldn't want my kid in full contact MMA or boxing. Training with headgear, big gloves, and limited head strikes is probably OK. You need to train with some strikes so that your grappling technique is realistic, but real MMA is probably as bad for your brain as football.

botti said...

***West Point required incoming (male) cadets to learn boxing for over 100 years***
 
Boxing was compulsory at my boarding school in NZ (Kings College) when my uncles were there in the 70's, but had stopped by the time I attended in the mid 90's. Rugby was the major winter sport if you were a boarder and sports like soccer were looked down on. I got hassled a bit for playing hockey :-)
 
Rugby doesn't involve helmets, just mouth guards and sometimes padded headgear, but there are some pretty big hits. Since the game went professional in the 90's the players have also become bigger and the impacts are likened to a car crash :-)
 
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2007/10/15/rugby-game-like-car-crash-on-body-115875-19952567/

steve hsu said...

No helmets probably means less brain trauma. In US football your head becomes a weapon once you are wearing a helmet. After a game you should have paint marks on your helmet from the opponents.

dkco said...

Shame you denigrated swimming. I played the big 3 (football, baseball, basketball) but swimming required by far the most dedication and time training. Maybe we werent the biggest grunts on campus, but swimmers have the highest aggregate gpa of all athletes, so perhaps we knew better than to slam our heads into other neanderthals...

steve hsu said...

I was a competitive swimmer from age 7 through college, and my kids will probably also swim. But I think the West Pointers know what they're talking about ... :-)

Anonymous_IV said...

Hm, it's clear why the military'd want to instill the mindset that leads soldiers to opt for front-line combat, but is that really what a child's parent would want for them?

steve hsu said...

Of course I hope my children will never have to fight in a war. Perhaps my wish that my son be tough enough to do so if necessary is an anachronism ...

MtMoru said...

"Somehow the 100 breaststroke, even the state championships, didn't have quite the same intensity."
 
Football and wrestling were intense, but not as intense as the 200. I was asked to run the 400 but that would have been too much. Bill Cosby even has a routine on it.
 
Maybe the 100 free/crawl would have been more intense. The breast is sort of like who can skip the fastest.

JustinL said...

There's no feeling quite like waking up with a sore chin or bridge of the your nose a day after sparring. By the way headgear doesn't really stop the G-forces on the brain, more or less used to stop cuts.

Anonymous_IV said...

It's not just warfighting: keeping one's face out of fists' way is a healthy instinct, and on balance I'd be leery of training a child to override it...

byron byron said...

I used to train in a martial art as a teenager. We'd spar light contact once a month, which was ok safety wise, except for one time when I took a few good punches to the chin. They didn't hurt thanks to the padding, but for a whole week afterwards I felt light-headed. That was probably a symptom of mild brain trauma.

There's no way to make sparring completely safe unless your wear a big bulky helmet that attaches to a thorax protector than to your head.

Stevie Mac said...

Maybe the type of men who chose to box in the first place are the type to chose to go to the front line at a higher rate, regardless of the training. Did you consider that?

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