Iron sharpens Iron. This is a saying most athletes have heard almost daily in football. Coaches use this term to describe good-on-good or a 1-on-1 drill where the best go against the best in practice. However, why is it that in this day and age leagues have gone away from contact in practices? Since the new push on a safer game has become the norm, we have seen an increase in injuries. Some say it’s all coincidence, but I say it a matter of conditioning.
The human body is an amazing instrument, but like any instrument, it must be molded and tuned to a specific calibration to handle the trauma that will be applied to it. Let’s face it; football is a high velocity, high impact, high trauma sport. Athletes are asked to hurl their bodies into other bodies of equal or greater mass repeatedly. For this reason alone, there must be some sort of conditioning. A 100 m sprinter does not wake up and say that they will attempt an ironman race, the same way a football player can’t just show up and start hitting. The body must be condition to take and deliver the hits. The muscles, tendons and ligament must be trained to produce the torque needed to perform the duties required of the sport.
As far as this whole argument of no contact in practice and injuries is concerned, it must be viewed in this perspective. If you aren’t training your body to deliver and withstand impact, how can you expect your bodies to handle that same impact when it presents itself? If you want players to tackle smarter, then they have to practice tackling smarter. The fact of the matter is this. Too much hitting in practice will definitely wear the body down, but to remove it completely from the preparation phase of the game is a disservice to these professional football players. They are unprepared for the demands that will be placed on their bodies by the lengthy season.
With the new CBA put in place by the NFL and the NFLPA, it stands that the limited hitting in practice will continue, but exactly how many devastating injuries to valuable players must happen before there is an impetus to make a change? No one is really addressing the issue that limited hitting in practice may be a direct correlation to all of the serious injuries that are reported almost daily, but it’s basically the elephant in the room that no one is talking about. Eventually I do suspect that someone will speak up. We all want the game to be as safe as possible for the players, but this particular new rule is causing the exact opposite for player safety than previously anticipated. A change must come soon or we will continue to see mysterious injuries with no answers.