The NFL is the most-watched sport in America and is growing rapidly worldwide but concussion is threatening to derail its popularity. While injuries are all part of every sport, they are always likely to be more prevalent in contact sports. And the NFL’s failure to remove helmet-to-helmet hits is a significant threat to the leagues’ continued growth.

It should be noted that Mason Rudolph was released from hospital the night of the game, and was at home recovering. However, how the league has responded to this latest incident shows they have learned little, if anything, from their own history.

Concussion Has An Ugly History In The NFL

The NFL has been struggling with the issue of concussion, and long term brain injuries for many years. The well documented and shocking debate over the causes of CTE in players left a sour taste in many ex-players and supporters mouths.

returning to play after sustaining a concussion “does not involve significant risk of a second injury either in the same game or during the season.”

NFL’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, January 2005

As recently as 2005, the NFL’s own committee on brain injuries claimed that returning to play after suffering a concussion posed no risks. Reports of the NFL actively trying to intimidate scientists uncovering the link between CTE and the sport showed just how desperately the NFL have tried to hide the effects of hits to the head.

Mason Rudolph Lies Prostrate On The Field After Suffering Concussion © Getty Images
Mason Rudolph Lies Prostrate On The Field After Suffering Concussion © Getty Images

Scenes like those of Mason Rudolph laid out on the field, with teammates like Juju Smith-Schuster visible distressed should be a thing of the past in the modern-day NFL, but the league continues to punish offenders too lightly.

Despite the obvious helmet-to-helmet hit, safety Earl Thomas isn’t expected to receive a fine or suspension, although he did get a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on the play.

Not The First Time

It’s not even the first time this season that the league has chosen not to protect players and enforce their own rules. In week 3, Miami Dolphins receiver Allen Hurns suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit that left him with a concussion. The NFL gave no suspension, or even a fine, to Jeff Heath for the hit.

While it's clear to most watching that helmet-to-helmet hits are unacceptable, clearly the NFL is only paying lip service to player safety. Click To Tweet

The NFL is a ferocious and violent sport, it is one of the things that has made it so popular. But the league doesn’t seem to understand that it can still be that with body-to-body contact, and it doesn’t need violent life-threatening shots to maintain it’s popularity.

The obvious examples for the NFL are Rugby League and Rugby Union. Neither sport has helmets, and neither sport has the same desire to hide head injuries the way the NFL does. The lack of openness, transparency, and genuine care for players is plain for all to see, and until the NFL addresses this issue a dark cloud will continue to hang over the game.