irony and unthinkability
Just like football helmets that create
illusions of invulnerability
irony can’t truly mitigate
the trauma of unthinkability.
Lacking helmets football would not be
the game it is, but they do not protect
the wearer any more than irony
protects politically the incorrect.
The trauma that’s inflicted when a skull
is fractured is no less than the concussion
that’s suffered by those people who are dull,
but miss the irony of a discussion.
Inspired by an article in the WSJ on November 11,2009 (Is It Time to Retire the Football Helmet? New Research Says Small Hits Do Major Damage—and There's Not Much Headgear Can Do About It, by Reed Albergotti and Shirley S. Wang) :
This football season, the debate about head injuries has reached a critical mass. Startling research has been unveiled. Maudlin headlines have been written. Congress called a hearing on the subject last month. As obvious as the problem may seem (wait, you mean football is dangerous?) , continuing revelations about the troubling mental declines of some retired players—and the ongoing parade of concussions during games—have created a sense of inevitability. Pretty soon, something will have to be done. But before the debate goes any further, there's a fundamental question that needs to be investigated. Why do football players wear helmets in the first place? And more important, could the helmets be part of the problem? 'Some people have advocated for years to take the helmet off, take the face mask off. That'll change the game dramatically, ' says Fred Mueller, a University of North Carolina professor who studies head injuries. 'Maybe that's better than brain damage.'
The first hard-shell helmets, which became popular in the 1940s, weren't designed to prevent concussions but to prevent players in that rough-and-tumble era from suffering catastrophic injuries like fractured skulls. But while these helmets reduced the chances of death on the field, they also created a sense of invulnerability that encouraged players to collide more forcefully and more often. 'Almost every single play, you're going to get hit in the head, ' says Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jake Long. What nobody knew at the time is that these small collisions may be just as damaging. The growing body of research on former football players suggests that brain damage isn't necessarily the result of any one trauma, but the accumulation of thousands of seemingly innocuous blows to the head…
Nonetheless, the strongest argument for the helmet may turn out to be an economic one. The NFL is shaped around the notion that players can run into each other at high speeds without consequence. It's the same sort of idea that has made Nascar the nation's most popular form of motorsport. And beyond all this, there's the very real question of whether the prospect of serious mental impairment later in life will ever discourage people from playing the game—let alone watching. 'Without the helmet, they wouldn't hit their head in stupid plays, ' says P. David Halstead, technical director for the Nocsae, the group that sets helmet-safety standards. But without helmets, the game 'wouldn't be football, ' he says.
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