Brain injuries, and injuries in general, have been a problem for the sport of football long before anyone ever wanted to acknowledge them. In recent years, the drumbeat has gotten louder when it comes to concussions and how football leagues should deal with them or try to prevent them, but for the most part, the NFL has tried to distance itself from responsibility or blame. The NFL’s Canadian counterpart just introduced changes that could be a huge step towards changing the way their league, other leagues, and the sport in general could shift.
The CFL and CFLPA announced Wednesday that they plan to introduce changes that they hope will improve player safety. Chief among them is the news that, effective immediately, the league no longer allows full-contact padded practices during the season. Doing so significantly cuts down on the number of collisions and hits a player will sustain over the course of a year.
CFL teams were allowed full-contact practices during training camp and 17 days during the season. Those preseason camp contact practice will remain, but the regular season ones are now gone. That’s a first for any pro football league.
As part of the deal, the CFL is extending the regular season from 20 weeks to 21 weeks, which will cut down on downtime in-between games. Teams will now have three bye weeks during the season instead of two, while the number of games in a regular season will remain 18.
Including preseason and regular season NFL games, concussions were up 32 percent in 2015 to 271 and 244 concussions were reported in the 2016 season. There has been lots of talk of extending the regular season by the league but players have long pushed back on that, especially if the number of preseason games and practice demands remained the same. Perhaps the CFL will now give the NFL a blueprint to follow in order to create a better scenario that pleases both sides.
Based on a multitude of credible research, there is a direct correlation between the number of collisions football players have in their lives and long-term brain trauma. The CFL isn’t solving the problem with this rule change, but it is attempting to be a little bit smarter about how it can limit that number.