Zebras are your
neighbors. Be gentle with them.
Sooner or later
something will have to be done about football helmets, and if Dr. Don Cooper,
team physician at Oklahoma State, has his way, it will be sooner. Helmets and
shoulder pads are supposed to be protective armor for players, but Cooper
argues persuasively that they have become offensive weapons and that they cause
far too many injuries. For example, he says the rib injury the Pittsburgh
Steelers' Franco Harris suffered against Baltimore—which kept him out of the
AFC championship game with Oakland—was caused by the impact of a rock-hard
suggests that the future of football is threatened by injuries caused by hard
helmets. He cites a $4.5-million dollar judgment (now under appeal) against a
football-helmet manufacturer in a suit brought in Florida and says two other
sporting goods manufacturers have stopped making helmets because of lawsuits.
He believes other manufacturers may follow the same route. "Without
helmets," he says, "we'll have no football."
Cooper wants soft
outer-shell helmets made mandatory; he also favors soft outer-shell shoulder
pads. "We have soft thigh and hip pads, and there's no reason why we can't
have soft helmets and shoulder pads, too." He says the chief opponents of
soft helmets and pads are coaches. "Coaches think they need to hear the
sound of hard helmets hitting together to make it sound like football," he
says. "If they want to arm the players, they might as well issue helmets
like the Germans wore in World War I, with spikes on them."
Cooper notes that
some people say the soft helmets tend to stick and therefore cause neck
injuries. "That's not true," Cooper says, "but even if it were, all
that the manufacturers would have to do is coat the soft shell with Teflon, and
it would slide just like hard helmets do."