As I type these words, there’s simply no way of knowing if a Big Sky Conference football player will suffer a concussion this season.
Actually, let’s amend that last statement: It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when … and how severe.
It’s a fact of football life, concussions happen.
It’s Newton’s Law, and we’re not talking about 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, either. When two forces act upon each other, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Or, in other words, when two big, strong, powerful bodies collide a reverberation takes places.
Sometimes, a hit is just a hit. It’s clean, it’s by the book, it’s technically sound and both players get up, dust themselves off and head back to the huddle.
But sometimes a hit is more than just a hit. It’s clean, it’s by the book, it’s technically sound and yet the players do not dust themselves off and head back to the huddle.
Sometimes that reverberation goes all the way to the brain and rings a player’s “bell.”
A concussion — or as they used to call it, “getting your bell rung” — isn’t fun.
You’re woozy, you’re nauseous, you’re confused, you’re loopy; problem is, you’ve been taught to be stoic, a tough guy, a guy who can handle a little pain and a guy who doesn’t take plays off.
While toughness is a noble trait, wisdom is even nobler.
Given what we already know about head injuries and all that isn’t yet known, it’s imperative the NCAA and its conferences err on the side of caution.
A few years ago, the Big Sky Conference got out in front of concussion concerns by suspending players for blatant helmet-to-helmet hits. While protecting players should be the No. 1 priority of every NCAA conference, the Big Sky took a hard line where others didn’t.
Conference officials are to be commended for doing so.
Commissioner Doug Fullerton recently said the Big Sky will continue its commitment to player safety by strictly adhering to new NCAA rules regarding player safety this season.
Namely, the rule which states that if a player’s helmet comes off at any point during a play, the play will be whistled dead immediately. Secondly, the rule indicating that if a player’s helmet comes off, he must sit out at least one play.
“Primarily, the vast majority of these kids are playing because they love it,” Fullerton said. “To put them at risk out there is insane.”
Now, these two rules make common sense, but there will be moments during the season when a player has a shot at a breakaway touchdown, only to have the play blown dead because another players’ helmet came off. At that point, the challenge will be for fans (not to mention coaches and players) to remember why the rule is in place.
Anyone who’s followed college football over the past couple of seasons surely has noticed a rash of plays in which players’ helmets have popped off. Why? Because more and more players were wearing their headgear improperly.
“(The new rules will) definitely make you more conscious to strap it on (tighter),” said Montana State linebacker Jody Owens. “Nobody wants to come out of the game. You always want to play as many games as you possibly can.”
A nice, tight-fitting helmet isn’t exactly a picnic out on the field, even though it’s much safer. It leaves a mark across your forehead, it’s hard to get on and off (which is the point) and at times it pinches a little. But it sure beats the alternative, right?
“It’s not as comfortable,” said Sacramento State linebacker Jeff Badger. “Sometimes the snaps, they get loose throughout the season and you don’t really change them as much. I’ll probably change my snaps every couple of weeks, just to make sure they’re tight and they fit on tight.”
Credit where credit is due, football fans. The NCAA and in particular the Big Sky Conference deserve some for making players’ safety a top priority.