In recent years the evolution of the style of play matched with the equipment worn has become a concern spawning many news rules and regulations not only for on-field play but also for the equipment. The most obvious progression has been the helmet, with nearly 41,000 concussions suffered every year on the high school level alone. It is a no-brainer that changes are going to be made to reduce this number at all costs, even if that cost is the enjoyment of the game. Players have simply become too fast and too furious. Couple that with the size and strength of kids today and it the perfect recipe for some of the hardest hits football has ever seen (cough cough Ronnell Lewis cough cough). Because of this there has been an outcry for the safety of the players not only by family members but also from coaches.
Currently there is a "debate" to remove the most violent part of the game, the kickoff, from the beginning of each half as well as after the score. During the 2010 season, Eric LeGrand, a defensive tackle from Rutgers, suffered an injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down. After Rutgers has scored the tying touchdown, it was time for the kick in which LeGrand lined up for coverage. With a 30-50 yard sprint, a 6-2 275lb LeGrand is like a train running full steam ahead with no breaking system. As he was about to make the tackle, LeGrand dropped his head resulting in the paralysis. He was then rushed to hospital to stabilize his spine (it has been reported today that LeGrand has felt twitches throughout his body). The Rutgers coach, Greg Schiano, has proposed completely getting rid of the kickoff and replacing it with a 4th and 15 situation. Meaning that if a team scores a touchdown they will receive the ball on the 40 yard line in a 4th and 15 situation. From there, they can either go for it or punt the ball. The debate says that this will never happen since a 4th and 15 is easier to convert than an onside kick, however statistics say otherwise. Onside kick are recovered 25% of the time while a 4th and 15 is converted only 12.5% of the time.
But, where is the line drawn if there is ever one drawn? QB's get most of the special treatment. In the NFL, they are nearly untouchable these days because of rule changes and it is sure to trickle down into the collegiate level sooner or later. On the other hand safeties are the most penalized for their tackling habits and most rule changes directly affect them. Football originally started as a physical sport that is on a steady progression into a "powder puff" era. If kids were taught at a young age what proper tackling technique was and it was drilled into them, I think we see less serious injuries. But, pull in a kid like Ade Aruna who has never played a down of football to play at a major university like Auburn and we are in trouble.
I hope that Eric LeGrand becomes a miracle story and has a full recovery although doctors have said it is a long shot. He has been moved off a ventilator, can eat solid food, and has gone to live with his aunt where he continues rehabilitation and has moved his arm to the side. Dude is a fighter though and continues to work on his degree through the process.