A Solution In Search Of A Problem

You don't have to spend very much time with me to figure out that I am a ginormous football fan.  NFL, college, high school, flag, two hand touch, X-Box football....it doesn't matter.  If there's a pigskin and an end zone, I am into it.  The game of football has everything you could want in a sport - intense competition, controlled violence, a cast of colorful characters, and the possibility of a game-changing play every single down.

Football players come in all shapes and sizes - from the scrawny (sometimes chubby) place kickers to the behemoth offensive and defensive linemen.  It is these linemen who control the game by controlling the line of scrimmage.   Weighing in at over 300 pounds each, these guys work harder than anyone else on the field - and they can't take a single play off.  While a quarterback drops back to pass only half the time he takes the snap, and a workhorse running back can expect to get the ball only 25 times a game, the linemen scrap and claw roughly 70 plays a game, with equal intensity on each play. 

You can imagine that with all these large men pushing, pulling, rolling, and gouging in a large mass, people can get hurt.  The most common injury to linemen is the knee injury.  From sprains to tears, the knees are used and abused and damaged.  To help prevent catastrophe, many guys on the line will wear knee braces.  The knee brace is a barely flexible, mostly rigid appliance that fits over the knee and prevents side to side movement.  The brace helps to stabilize the joint, keeping it from being forced into the unnatural positions that lead to injury.  After injury, the knee brace can also allow a player to return to the field earlier, as it provides support to the ligaments and tendons.  But a large proportion of linemen do not wear them, as many have played for years without them and see them as limiting to their movements, hindering their play. The rigidness of the appliance has also led many to complain that it slows them down, especially when making cuts from side to side. However, given the number of players, the violence of the game, the number of plays each game, and the number of games played each year, there are remarkably few season- or career-ending knee injuries each season.

This, however, has not prevented the National Football League from imposing sweeping new rules, with the goal of there being no knee injuries to linemen whatsoever.  Under the new guidelines, all players of every position must wear knee braces at all times.  Offensive linemen, defensive linemen, quarterbacks, wide receivers, kickers, line backer, running backs, etc.  It doesn't matter what position you play, what protective gear you already have invested in, or what you injury history or risk are.  The NFL is mandating braces for all.  But it is not stopping there.  The League is providing all the players with braces and prohibiting players from wearing any other type.  And it goes even further.  The NFL leveraged their buying power to get a great deal on the knee braces, but the catch is that they could only buy one size.  So, everybody - from the 150 pound place kicker whose name you can't pronounce to the 325 pound center - will be forced to wear the same sized gear.  Players can be fined for either not wearing their league-issued knee braces or for wearing one of their own choosing.

You can imagine that this has caused something of an uproar.  Many players are perfectly happy with their current set of protective gear, and believe that being forced to wear the league-provided stuff will actually put them at greater risk for injury.  For them, this "one size fits all" (even if it really doesn't fit anybody) approach is harmful rather than helpful.  Besides the increased risk of injury, they argue, it slows them down and prevents them from playing at their highest level, which, in turn costs them money.  These players ask these simple questions: If the goal is to prevent knee injuries to linemen, why does the whole system for everybody need to be changed?  Why force players to give up their chosen protective gear and wear something that does not fit them, does not help them, and may actually harm them?

If you are wondering why you have not heard of this rule change before, it's because I just made it up.  The NFL is not considering forcing everybody to wear knee braces in order to prevent knee injuries to linemen.  But people in this country are advocating something just as sweeping, just as revolutionary and destructive, and just as foolish: universal health care.  It makes just as much sense to force everybody into the same sub-standard health care scheme as it does to make every player in the NFL wear the same sized pads. The truth is that the vast majority of people have health coverage, and most of them are content with the coverage they have.  I can't for the life of me understand why people would like for the federal government to take away those people's insurance coverage and replace it with a single payer system in order to provide health insurance for those who currently don't have it.


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This page contains a single entry by Louis Core published on July 10, 2009 2:18 PM.

When Did We Fail Her As Parents? I Blame Television was the previous entry in this blog.

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