Due to the discovery of the condition known as CTE, the protection of the head has never been taken more seriously than it has in the past several years. Player safety has become a priority in various sports like soccer, and hockey. However, one sport has focused on put probably the most emphasis on this than the rest of the sports, and that sport is American Football. This is probably due to the especially physical nature of the game, and the dangers that come with it specifically the numerous amounts of head injuries that occur in the sport each year.
This again is because of the physical nature of the game in which there is contact in every play. All these head injuries and the discovery of CTE have led to various rules and regulations as well as forcing coaches to come up with various ways to help prevent severe contact to the head and to discourage the use of the head altogether.
So, the main rules and regulations include changes to the first point of contact and the procedure for an injured player, Targeting, and limitations placed on offseason and preseason practices.
A couple of the rules and regulations that have been introduced include changing the first point of contact for blocking and tackling, forcing a player that gets medical treatment to miss at least one play, and wedge blocks being banned from kickoffs. A primer from the NCAA describes some of these rules and regulations intended to make the game safer.
One of the first rule changes regarding player safety was in 1976 in which players were no longer allowed to use the head/ face area as the first contact point when it comes to blocking and tackling. The purpose of this was to get minimize head injuries that would result from the players using their head/face area as the first point of contact in their blocking and tackling. Another regulation was added to the game in 2010 to protect injured players. This regulation forced players that received medical attention to miss at least one play before re-entering the game. However, they first needed to be checked by the medical staff and be cleared to return to action. Wedge Blocking was also banned in 2010 and more specifically the use of three or more players to wedge block would now result in a 15-yard penalty “primer” 2010). This primer showed that the NCAA is constantly trying to come up with new ways to improve player safety in the game. While these are just some of the rules and regulations that have been added to make the game safer, there are a lot more of them.
The Targeting rule is perhaps one of the most talked-about rules in college football mostly due to the sometimes-controversial penalties and ejections that comes with it. However, this isn’t the only rule that the Rules Committee is discussing specifically the concept of blocking below the waist. In another article by the NCAA, the Rules Committee mentions the targeting rule. Also mentioned within the article could be a statement by Steve Shaw, the secretary-rules editor of the committee (“Football,” 2018). Shaw had stated ‘“The targeting rule has changed player behavior and has made a positive impact on the game. In all areas, the committee continues to investigate ways to improve our rules for student-athlete safety and fairness of play’’ (“Football,” 2018). This quote shows that while the targeting rule is making a positive impact on the game. The rules committee is looking into ways to make the rules better. Later in the same article when discussing blocking below the waist Shaw mentions that ‘“The difficulty is balancing style of play concerns and player safety to create rules that are not too complicated to understand and that are good for the game ”’ (“Football,” 2018). This quote is significant because it shows that while player safety is important the rules committee also must consider other aspects of the game, so they don’t overcomplicate the rules of the game.
Finally, according to an article by D. J. Baer and J. J. Smith, The NCAA in 2017 made a rule change in which limited what teams could do for offseason practices (2020). More specifically the rule made it that teams could no longer have two practices in one day, and it also limited the number of practices that teams could have during the offseason (Baer & Smith, 2020). This has led to coaches having less time to teach the proper way to tackle. An article from Sports Illustrated mentions that some of the rule changes regarding practices starting in 2015 have started to limit practice time with full contact (Staples, 2017). Due to this coaches now have difficulty finding time to explain the proper ways of tackling (Staples, 2017). According to the Sports Illustrated article, this has forced coaches to try and find ways to teach the proper ways of tackling without the need for contact (Staples, 2017). This shows the increased importance of player safety while also explaining some of the challenges that are associated with making the game safer for the players.
In conclusion, the added rules of the games are making the game safer. Between taking the head out of the form of tackling and the new targeting rule players are now being discouraged from physically using their heads when contacting another player. This, in turn, makes the game safer because players do not want to hurt their teams by causing a penalty to be called for them not properly tackling. Though in-game rules were not the only focus of the NCAA as they also chose to make changes to the offseason practice procedures to reduce the number of injuries in the offseason by reducing the amount of contact allowed in the offseason. So, while the NCAA has implemented all these new changes to the rules and regulations. The ultimate result has been an overall improvement in player safety in the game of football.