It’s safe to say that the hottest topic out of #ACCKickoff 2018 was the head coach of the North Carolina Tarheels, Larry Fedora.
Off of a three win season in 2017, Fedora is looking to get the University of North Carolina back to a bowl game this year -- and if he doesn’t, he’s liable to be looking for work by season’s end.
Obviously some controversy generating content came from Fedora's time with the press on Wednesday and while most of what he said was promoted with negative connotations, there was some truth in what was said.
When a reporter asked Fedora about changes to the kickoff rules in relation to concussion research and how football has changed for him, Larry responded with some interesting quotes...
“When I started playing it was all about the head. You were gonna stick your head into everything. As we’ve learned and we understand the dangers of what’s going on in the game of football, you’ve taken the head out of the game…All the drills you teach, all the tackling, all the things you do--you do it with the head out of the game to keep the head away from the impacts."
“I’m gonna tell you, the game right now is safer than it’s ever been in the history of the game. Are there still injuries? Yea. It’s a violent sport. You’ve got big, fast, strong guys running into each other. Somethings gonna give."
“There are risks involved in the game and everybody that plays the game understands those risks. It’s not like they’re going into it not knowing something could happen. They personally have to weigh those risks versus the rewards."
In this particular instance, Fedora is absolutely right. The technology we have being developed today, whether it's mouth guards with sensors that track a players head in space or how hard they get hit [Wearable Technology May Help Make Football Safer], or thicker helmets with more padding.
Even in the recovery process today, technological advances have been developed to help enable players to recover quicker and come back stronger than ever before.
But like Fedora said, injuries will still happen due to the nature of the game. And I agree with his sentiment that every player knows the risks involved with the game and it is up to them to make an informed and knowledgable decision that they feel is best for them and their health.
It's easy to argue that football is dangerous, and in all reality it is, but every player that takes the field has made a decision in their mind that they are willing to take the chance; this can be referred to as 'acceptable risk.'
Another question was asked later in a breakout media room that led to Fedora saying a couple more interesting things...
“I believed we’re involved in the greatest game on earth. It’s what makes our country so great. I’m passionate about that. The things we change year in and year out, tweaking the game for player safety, all of those things, I think are good for the game."
"I think the game is safer now then it’s ever been in the history of the game. That doesn’t mean you’re gonna eliminate all the injuries. It’s not possible.”
“I believe the game is under attack right now, I really do. And if we’re not careful, we’re gonna lose what the game is all about.”
“I blame a ground swell of data that is tweaked one way or the other…and whoever’s presenting it is the one that gets to say so. Are there some things negative about the game? Yea, there’s no doubt about that.”
“I fear the game will get pushed so far to one extreme that you won’t recognize the game 10 years from now.”
What is CTE?
CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) is a degenerative brain disease in which a protein called Tau, forms clump throughout the brain, killing brain cells. It is a condition of brain damage which persists over a period of years; likely a result from traumatic impacts to the cranium. The only way to diagnose it, as of now, is by studying sections of the brain during autopsy.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it is still a very controversial condition that is not well-understood. Researchers do not yet know the frequency of CTE in the population nor do they understand the causes.
A lot of media outlets tend to draw conclusions that science hasn't, and still can't confirm. There is no doubt that CTE exists -- but researchers and scientists have not reached the point where they can state anything about the condition as factual.
The "attack" on football is real and it isn't hard to see that. Every year there are rule changes implemented in attempts to improve player safety. In 2018, the kickoff rules will be a lot different then what it has been. One of them being that return teams can now "fair catch" the ball inside the 25-yard line, which will result in a touchback.
Some of the biggest hits and hardest contact in a football comes during the kickoffs -- where both team are running at each other full speed looking to obliterate anybody that stands in the way.
When Fedora said "...you won't recognize the game 10 years from now," he is right. With the emergence of CTE and it's assumed effects, rule changes will continue to manifest as they look to make the game safer, thus changing the way the game looks and feels to it's long-time fans.
Player safety should be a top concern but in regards to what Fedora said, they can't eliminate all injuries. It's not possible. And no amount of rule changes is going to change that. But the more they try to change the game, the further it gets away from what made it attractive and fun to watch.
Overall, I don't think Fedora was completely wrong or stupid for saying what he said. As a matter of fact, I think he was on point with most of it. I just don't believe he eloquently expressed it the way he would have liked to or meant to. And multiple media outlets didn't do him any favors either through their press releases.
Nevertheless, the game of football is changing and I don't foresee it stopping anytime soon.
As for CTE, the research will continue. And until there is factual proof that can link it and it's effects to football, just sit back and enjoy the game while we still have it.