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The NFL and Head Trauma: Deandre Levy Wants to Eliminate Full-Contact Practices

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What is the NFL to do about head injuries? It is a bone of contention that will not go away, and it obviously shouldn’t, not when the health of athletes is on the line. Linebacker DeAndre Levy’s recent suggestion has a lot of people buzzing.
NFL athletes make suggestions all the time, but the one from Levy could have an impact on Redskins betting odds for the season, especially if it is put into practice. If you haven’t heard, Levy participated in a congressional forum constituting members of the House Energy, Commerce, and Judiciary Committees.

The linebacker’s suggestion was that the NFL should eliminate full-contact practices. It matters that an athlete like Levy is bringing this idea to the table because that gives it more weight.

Levy made mention of the fact that he was already aching when he went into the game on Sunday because collisions he encountered on Wednesday and Thursday during practice had left him feeling significantly sore.

Coaches and players at Redskins Park were quick to dismiss the idea. Like Levy, they agreed that football is an inherently violent sport. But they disagreed that the health hazards could be mitigated by restricting collisions to the games on Sunday.

Coach Jay Gruden told reporters that full collisions in practice provided an opportunity for the abilities of players to be properly vetted before the Sunday game. Gruden agreed with Levy that losing players to injuries during practice was infuriating but it wasn’t unnecessary.

There are plenty of young players in the NFL that have never been in a regular game who need to garner experience in the practice sessions, that way they are better prepared for the day they are thrown into an actual game.

For Gruden, collisions are a fundamental aspect of a professional football game. He doesn’t believe that judgments about players can be made in the absence of proper full-contact practices.

Levy’s suggestions might sound a little unexpected and almost ridiculous. But that is only if you do not keep abreast of global footballing news. The Canadian Football League has already banned full-contact practices.

The decision was made last month, though it did not attract much fanfare outside Canada because their league doesn’t enjoy as much prestige.

Vernon Davis, the Redskins’ veteran tight end, doesn’t think Levy’s proposition has much chance of passing. And Davis added that practice was nowhere near as physical today as it was a decade ago.

Vernon does not see how professional football can progress in the United States without full contact practice sessions because that is the only way players build muscle memory and grow accustomed to the rigors of the game.

Otherwise, they are just as likely to freeze when thrown into a regular game. In fact, some people think Levy’s idea might inject even more danger into the game because, without the full contact practices, Coaches won’t be able to tell who is ready to participate in a regular game and who isn’t.

The NFL is no longer denying the association between brain trauma and repetitive hits to the head. And they are still being closely scrutinized for their laxity in taking steps to protect their athletes from brain trauma.

Levy’s suggestion has no support to speak of in the locker rooms, but it has opened the door for new out-of-the-box ideas.

More By Mark Solway

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