The new NFL rule that could change football

In March, the National Football League (NFL), the American football league, introduced a new rule to limit the serious problem of concussions reported by players during tackles on the field, one of the most heartfelt and discussed in sports for years. . The new rule basically prohibits players from voluntarily hitting opponents in the “head”, using the helmet as a battering ram: that move, however, is very common and widespread, it is an integral part of the game, and there are those who say that Banning it will lead to a radical transformation of American football as we know it today.

The new rule will come into force from next season and has been drafted in a very simple way to avoid ambiguities and misunderstandings in its interpretation, as had already happened with the one that defines what a reception is, which over the years has undergone many tweaks. and overlaps, with the result, according to many, of becoming confusing and arbitrary. The rule says: “It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and complete contact with his helmet against an opponent.”

The foul has been included in the category of “unnecessary violence”, and the penalty is 15 yards: the team of the player who committed the foul loses ground by 15 yards, which corresponds to just under 14 meters. If the foul is committed by a defending player, it is the opponent’s attack that advances; if an attacking player does so, his team retreats. However, there are also cases in which the expulsion of the player is foreseen: when the player “lowers his head to adopt a linear body posture before starting and ending contact with the opponent; when the hitting player had no obstacles between him and the opponent; when contact was obviously avoidable, and the player had other options. To determine if the fault falls into these categories, the VAR will be applied, seen by a control center in New York.

Concussions in football have long been one of the biggest topics of discussion in American sports. Soccer is one of the most popular and followed sports in the United States, but also one of the most violent: more than half of the starting team (11 are played) have the task of blocking opponents and favoring the circulation of the ball. Blocks, crashes, collisions are therefore very frequent in which practically all parts of the body are used (here is a small guide to the rules of the game).

The data circulating about concussions reported by players during their career is alarming. Last year one of the most important studies carried out on the subject, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, revealed that of 111 brains of former NFL players analyzed, 110 had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a syndrome caused by the accumulation of repeated concussions, first described in association with American football. CTE, like all syndromes, presents with different symptoms, ranging, depending on severity, from attention deficits and disorientation to dementia, dizziness, speech difficulties, memory loss, depression, tantrums, and personality deterioration. CTE symptoms can also appear years after a player’s retirement. For this reason, in the past the regulations had already been modified to limit these confrontations, but never with the consequences that could exist this time.

In fact, many experts warn that the new rule introduced by the NFL has several problems and could radically change football. In the first place, it will be very difficult for referees to apply it: because helmet clashes occur in every action between the so-called “linemen”, that is, the players -offensive and defensive- who initiate the action along the line of scrimmage. , the one that does not can be advanced in one direction or another by the two teams before the start of the action. The duck-forward maneuver with the helmet is thus very often adopted by attacking players to gain more ground or prepare for engagements, and thus can lead to contact even if taken as a “preemptive” measure. It will not be easy for the referees to detect all these contacts and then distinguish between the intentional ones to sanction and the involuntary ones, or those that are the result of a “preventive” movement. It will probably take some time for the referees to learn how to adopt the new rules: there will be an annual meeting of the referees in July, and some details of how the rule will be applied will probably be explained.

Al Riveron, vice president of the NFL, has already explained that defensive linemen who come out of their starting position along the line of scrimmage will no longer be able to keep their heads down and poke their way through with their helmets. This is the aspect that most worries those who say that the rule will change the game. In the past, other rules that served to limit head injuries had been met with catastrophism and fear-mongering by those who believed they would ruin and even destroy football. It didn’t happen, of course. This time, however, it seems that the actions and movements that the NFL wants to prohibit are actually central to the game, especially since they are what the linemen do in each action, and distinguish one of the most frequent situations in football games. football. . Many have pointed out that contrasts between linemen will also be the most difficult for umpires to manage. As he told a dead turn Jim Daopoulos, a former NFL referee and umpire supervisor, in theory umpires should eject both the offensive and defensive linemen in the event of such contact, which is certainly an impractical solution.

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