How Well Are We Protecting Athletes?

4/25/12 in NFL   |   thatbrewersgirl   |   23 respect

Sep 14, 2008; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengal quarterback Carson Palmer (9) and receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (84) watch trainers attend to tight end Ben Utecht (81) after a hit in the first quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

In 2009, NFL quarterback Carson Palmer suggested that an NFL player would die within the next five years due to a violent hit. Fortunately, Palmer's fears have not yet come to fruition. However, sports are more dangerous than ever and some serious injuries have occurred.

Baseball, the sport with the least amount of contact between players, might be the most dangerous sport of all. On any play, there is a risk of a player being hit in the head with a baseball. In fact, you don't even have to be a player to be hurt during a baseball game; in 2007, minor league third-base coach Mike Coolbaugh was killed after being struck in the head by a foul ball.

Some people say basketball is a "safe, noncontact" sport and players aren’t prone to serious injury. Metta World Peace's caving in of James Harden's skull is a sobering reminder that when elbows are flying about, nobody is safe on the basketball court. On the plus side, when significant injuries happen in the NBA, the league swiftly cracks down on offenders, ensuring players think twice before the situation can repeat itself.

The other sports? Not so much. Football and hockey are governed by loose rules that seem to change from instance to instance and from player to player. Both of these sports claim they have the best interests of players at heart, but the facts indicate otherwise.

The NHL has seen a rash of violent hits and injuries that rival that of the NFL. While the joke about hockey is that players should make sure they have good dental insurance plans, many players have actually lost numerous teeth. The biggest target on a hockey player is his head. Head shots have been banned, but they still happen regularly, and that is in part because the league's disciplinary process is completely broken.

For instance, star defenseman Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators intentionally rammed a player's head into the boards and received only a fine, but other lesser-known players have received multiple game suspensions for unintentional hits. This disconnect keeps players guessing and, by extension, encourages them to take liberties with opposing players.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the NFL has cracked down on dangerous hits, largely due to the fact that the league is being sued by many former players regarding their rapidly deteriorating post-football quality of life. After a particularly dangerous week in 2010 where many top players were injured due to questionable hits, the NFL changed their rules about how defensive players should attack ball carriers The league also modified its protocol regarding readmitting injured players into games. The game is undoubtedly less dangerous, but defensive players are so confused by the new rules that they barely know how to play defense. In addition, there is no other league with the violence and potential for disaster as the NFL.

Carson Palmer may not have been proven correct yet, but the odds of a fatality during a sports event increases by the day. However, the chances of such an event are no longer limited to the NFL. If the NHL does not drastically increase its safety measures, both leagues run a serious risk of having blood on their hands.

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