Charting the changes in safety in two major American Sports…

Charting the changes in safety in two major American Sports… […]

Charting the changes in safety in two major American Sports…

So many rules have changed in sports in recent decades and so many of them have been for safety reasons to make them safer for participants and spectators. read on below as we and  stair lift manufacturer Acorn Stairlifts assess some of the changes in two super supported American sports that have made them safer by adapting to knowledge and using technology!


It is fitting to begin with the perspective of one of the athletes. In this case Marvin Washington an esteemed alumni from a Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl XXXII championship-winning team actually wrote in the New York Times, “the game of football is safer than it has ever been”. He noted also  in the same article that

“Over the last few years, the NFL has made 39 rule changes to enhance player safety. Kickoffs were moved to the 35-yard line from the 30-yard line to increase touchbacks and decrease dangerous kickoff returns. A more rigorous protocol was established for dealing with concussions. Independent medical spotters can now call a timeout if they see that a player may have been concussed. Receivers on a pass that is intercepted are now classified as defenseless players.

“These are just a few recent changes that have had measurable results.”

the advance the NFL have made are vast and are rule changed based. When the NFL started and in its infancy so to speak attacking players could remain as close as one yard away from the sideline, it was illegal to substitute and pulling of face masks was not an infringement of the laws of the game

The axioms of safety and fairness and consequently the definition or view of the right things to do have evolved and much of this has been driven with athlete safety in mind. As long ago as 2008 simple changes to the laws have had far reaching consequences for player safety. One such change regarded the positioning of three plus players as a defensive wall impeding the movement of a returning player once kickoff commences, this was specifically introduced into the rules for safety reasons.

The “chop block” is now illegal. The “chop block” is still famous as a tackling procedure in which ball carrier “a” was double tackled with one athlete grappling the attacker high and the other player grappling the player lower and the number of injuries associated with this procedure was startling! Its now as of 2017 illegal, it can’t be performed and those injuries have consequently reduced.

the NFL have been busy changing many numerous laws for safety and athlete health reasons for decades, and this article charts some changes which have occurred in the last 3 decades alone.

The role of technology in improving safety in the game of NFL is incredible! this increase in tech and knowledge and data gathering has even impacted the humble mouthguard! NOVA video reported on by PBS made a feature on this very mouth protection device and how a gyroscope and accelerometer fitted to the oral implement is used to improve safety

this is appliance of technology and understanding. By fitting the gyroscope and acceleromoter which measure movement at pace of athletes, the location of athletes heads in real time can be tracked and the safety changes that can be implemented from this data are fantastic! In short it tells the coahces where the player is getting hit and physical force registered there around that particularly sensitive head / face area where cognitive abilities can be imparied by blunt force traumas! In real time coaches can then assess the players potential health threats and take them out of play should alarm signals be triggered by the gathered data, almost instantly!

In St. Thomas Aquinas in Ft. Lauderdale robots or “dummies” are used in training. this robotic devices can sprint at 20 miles per hour and make 40 yard dashes! This has safety in training applications! the athletes can train with the robotic “dummies” over and over again performing attacking plays putting in tackles against the robots and thereby unforeseen variations in how defenders perform defensive maneuvers are reduced, those unknown quantities are vastly reduced and this reduces training injuries! the robots can be made to the same height and with spec as the human competitors.

this also has applications in defense training scenarios because the athletes can tackle down the robots without worrying about what they are tackling which was previously fellow team mates!


Many people observe boxing and they think, “thats really dangerous, is this safe?” they many times are simply unaware of recent German research which shows everyone that the results of the research is there are about 10 fatalities per anum in boxing every year from 1990 to 2016.

Intiially people are worried by this! Of course everyone wants to see fatalities removed entirely from the sport! Yet, there is a cogent opposite thesis provided most succinctly by Doug Ward, President and Trainer for the Underground Boxing Company. Doug wrote an article for the “Boxing blog” which they published called, “the real fact is that boxing is among the most regulated sports in all of athletics”.

In that piece Doug made it crystal clear that at the heart of boxing is the desire by everyone to have fair competition, where competitors are in bouts with similar opponents. this can be broadly decided in terms of fighting opponents who are similar in age for example, and wight plus experience levels! Doug says “The goal is to make fights that are fair and competitive”, and further stated… we don’t always see that in sports other than boxing, where people who are not similar are competing! In fact, according to Doug and we quote he stated this as The Underground Boxing Company President that “boxing has gone the extra mile to insure the safety and protect the well-being of its athletes”.

Yet what is the data telling us? Actually below are some itemised facts showing this to be the case:

A) Medical doctors attend the pre bout official meet ups and those get together meets are specifically about assessing the medical fitness of the athletes. That’s before the bout!

B) during the fight itself. Just before the bout commences, the doctor (sometimes several) are always there at every bout, assessing the athletes, looking for the signs which they are trained to see that would mean stopping the bout for health and safety reasons) then at the end of the bout those medial professionals are performing assessments of the athletes post bout!

C) During the entire bout, from start to finish an official called the referee is in the boxing ring with the athletes enforcing the laws and also critically carrying out assessments of the athletes, analysing them for signs of health and safety deterioration and whether this means the fight should be stopped for medical reasons.

Further… the most well trained neurologists are constantly evaluating the history, the laws, the present and growing medical knowledge from their fields and applying that to boxing. Once such professional neurologist N.K. Sethi (who sits on the board of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical Center) has also been the medial doctor at boxing bouts and wrote an article which was published by Athlete’s Quarterly that he actually called of a boxing bout with only 30 seconds left on the clock for medical reasons! Criticism was leveled at N.K. Sethi to which he simply stated that:  “As a doctor, I can tell you for certain, 30 seconds in a fight truly matters. One punch can be the difference between life and death. The final punch can have a fatal effect. So while we, as ringside physicians, endure the wrath of trainers, the media and sometimes the fighter himself, for stopping a fight, we cannot let this discourage or intimidate us to make comprises on a fighter’s safety.”

Mr Sethi offered  the following advice: “The fighter’s mentality is never to quit no matter what the circumstances. Doing so brings disgrace to the fighter, his family and his corner. This mentality and culture needs to change.

“Boxers and corner staff should be educated and encouraged to actively recognize and report to the ringside physician any subjective symptoms of concussion and traumatic brain injury, such as headache, subjective feeling of dizziness or light headedness, blurring of vision, double vision, confusion and a feeling of fogginess.”

Additioanally, Kellie Maloney who is a boxing promoter has offered her experienced opinion on safety in boxing stating that simple before the bout change would make a great contribution to reducing athlete re-hydration. Boxing could have the pre-bout weigh-in on the same day as the bout! She actually said on UK radio “I think it’s something to do with dehydration, making weight, because the fluid around the brain is drained out when fighters have to make weight.” That was on the BBC Radio 4 Today program