Today, contact sports are under a great deal of scrutiny. The NFL has been under fire recently because of the rising number of concussion-related consequences. The main topic of concern has been chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) which is found in people who have had one or more severe blows to the head or traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Naturally CTE has been found at a higher rate in sports that are high contact such a football, hockey and soccer.
Recently, in an effort to reduce concussions and other injuries, the eight Ivy League schools passed a rule that bans full contact in practices. In a sport that revolves around bone-crushing collisions with an opponent whose move is bold and unprecedented. However, the new rule could prevent multiple brain injuries, not to mention other physical injuries that result from tackles that occur in practices. In an effort to build mentally and physically healthier squads, the Ivy League schools have gone where no one has dared to go before.
Initial concerns with the enactment of the rule were in regards to the teams' ability to stay competitive without full contact in practice. However, in a phone interview with The New York Times, Dartmouth coach, Buddy Teevens, stated, "At this stage in their careers, these guys know how to hit and take a hit. People look at it and say we’re nuts. But it’s kept my guys healthy.” Dartmouth's groundbreaking football program was the inspiration for the new rule. In fact, Teevens banned full-contact practice almost six years ago in 2010. Dartmouth practices with tackling dummies, pads and a "mobile virtual player" which is designed to imitate a player moving across the field.
This being said, it still remains to be seen if programs such as Harvard, who is quickly becoming a hotbed for NFL talent, can stay competitive with schools outside their conference who have not banned full-contact tackles in practice. Advocates of the new rule state that in eliminating human on human tackles in practice players are learning how to tackle more precisely and safety, a statement that Coach Teevens has echoed.
All that remains to be seen now is if this is an effective way to curtail concussions and CTE in football. From a practical standpoint, it seems as though the Ivy League has passed a legitimate rule that will result in a decline in concussions like Dartmouth has already experienced. If the policy that has just been instituted in the Ivy League works, will other leagues, such as the SEC, follow suit?