The best defense against injuries is fear. If the NFL wants to reduce them, it should outlaw helmets, pads, cleats and artificial turf.
LAWRENCE A. DANTO, M.D., Davis, Calif.
Your concern about head injuries in the NFL is well founded (Halt the Head-hunting, Dec. 19). I learned about head injuries as a surgical fellow to Marvin A. Stevens, an orthopedic surgeon who was a pioneer in sports medicine. Stevens was a fullback at Yale in the days before special teams, when players played 60 minutes. He coached football at both Yale and NYU and went on to train as an orthopedic surgeon. In that capacity he served as a panel physician for the New-York State Athletic Commission.
Stevens's rule was that any player who suffered a concussion did not return to play in that game. It was a wise rule. Even a brief period of unconsciousness is a serious event in the life of the brain.
As long as team physicians believe it acceptable to return a concussed player to the game within 10 to 20 minutes of the injury, we will be seeing more and more punchy players with brain damage.
ROBERT B. BRENDZE, M.D. Chestnut Hill, Mass.
The culprit is the face mask, not the helmet. I have little doubt that before introduction of the face mask—particularly the cage—football injuries other than broken noses and teeth were relatively minor. I suggest removal of the face mask.
PAUL LAGOMARSINO, M.D., Fort Bragg, Calif.
The hard shell of today's football helmets provides protection against neck injuries, which arc at least as frightening as head injuries. The rigid shell allows the helmet to slide off objects it strikes. Padding the outside of the helmet tends to make it stick, transferring force to the neck. Thus, contrary to your statement, there is a downside to padded helmets.
JAMES G. GARRICK, M.D., San Francisco
Take the face masks off of everyone but the quarterbacks.
DICK LASTER, Tulsa
One cause of vicious hitting is cleated shoes. Before a blocker or tackler can unload on an opponent, he must firmly plant one foot, which he can't do if he's wearing uncleated shoes. Banning cleats would result in fewer neck and knee injuries. The emphasis would be on agility, balance and speed, not bulk.
COLIN MEYER, Vicenza, Italy
Not a word about mouthguards? Without a mouthguard, force that is applied to the chin transmits from the lower teeth to the upper teeth and then to the brain. When a mouthguard is worn, the forces are dissipated, the mouthguard working like a shock absorber. Mouthguards are required for high school players, and the NCAA has required their use since 1973. With a little practice, players can speak well enough to be understood while wearing them. After wearing mouthguards all through high school and college, players should be used to them by the time they reach the pros.
ROBERT B. STEVENSON. D.D.S., M.S. Columbus. Ohio
Another cause of head injuries is the play clock. With the clock visible to the defense as well as the offense, blitzing linebackers and safeties pretty much know when the ball is going to be snapped. Why not turn off the display of the clock at 10 seconds and leave everyone guessing?
CRAIG D. GEBERT, Laguna Niguel, Calif.