Be forewarned, this may not be the most “scholarly” article in terms of the use of the scientific method. It will probably consist of opinionated monologues and common sense. Believe me, as an athlete, and even as an Athletic Trainer for my team, I had my fair share of yelling matches and eye rolling with referee calls. But, the more I’ve worked as a PRN ATC as a completely neutral third party, I’ve seen with a clear eye why these “silly” rules are in place. Please be gentle with your opinions as I attempt to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment.
**Note: This post will focus on rules put in place to decrease the risk of head injury.
Like many authority figures, sports officials are targeted with a negative stigma and bad publicity. I think being shark bait is in their job description.
When it’s YOUR team playing, it seems to always be a bad call from the ref, not a poor play by the athlete. Our athletes are good, but you have to admit that there is a point at which some athletes are desperate enough to do anything to win, even if it accidental.
If you really, think about it, referees have to put up with a lot of crap. For instance, getting run over the players, and sometimes even the ATCs (guilty as charged)!
Stumbling, but having to recover immediately because no one cares about their boo boos;
And sometimes even physical abuse.
So, instead of thinking “That was a terrible call ref! Just let them play the game!”, maybe we should think, “Okay, yeah I wish he would have just let that go, but he may have saved my kid from breaking his neck and never being able to play again.” Morbid, I know. If referees were not there to judge whether a play/player is safe or not, we’d have athletes doing all sorts of dangerously hooligan things on the field just to get that extra point. As much as I enjoy a good hockey brawl, that’s the player who takes a hit right to the temple and loses consciousness. Enforcement of rules by officials, coaches, parents, and adherence to rules by athletes will reduce the incidence and severity of sports-related concussions (Committee on Sports-Related Concussions in Youth et al., 2017).
Let’s look at some rules that are in place to save your athletes’ lives:
Rule: Heads Up/Body checking
Sport: Ice Hockey, Football, Men’s Lacrosse
Rationale: Body checking is a tactic by defensive players to separate the carrying player from the object. It is a legal move if it is performed using the trunk (hips and shoulders), but the introduction of helmets and face shields to protect from facial trauma showed an increase in the number of serious head, neck, and spinal injuries related to body checking. Perhaps the helmets created a false send of safety, resulting in rule changes to prohibit head-first contact. USA Hockey, as well as other hockey leagues, has banned body checking at the Pee Wee level.
(American Academy of Pediatrics, 2000; Peters, 2013)
Rationale: The NFL implemented two rule changes to augment player safety. First, an offensive player who is attempting to catch a ball that’s been intercepted will be ruled defenseless and cannot be hit in the head or neck area by the intercepting team as possession changes. Also, the NFL has given certified athletic trainers who are stationed in sky boxes at each game the authority to stop play with the touch of a button if they see a player who is exhibiting notable signs of injury, even if he was hurt in a previous play. How exciting for us!!!!
(National Football League, 2017; Reyes, 2015)
Good news is, the NFL will n linger penalize or fine most post- touchdown celebrations (Patra, 2017)
Rule: Head butting
Rationale: A new rule in U.S. soccer limits the amount that youth players are allowed to head butt the soccer ball. For players 10 y.o. and younger, no head butting is allowed. Kids ages 11-13will head butt less during practice; players 14 years and older can head butt as always. “These new rules will resolve a lawsuit brought last year against U.S. soccer and others by a group of parents in California who argued the groups weren’t doing enough to protect kids from head injuries.” More importantly, brains in young children are not as myelinated as an adult’s brain, as they are still developing. When violently shaken, the unmyelinated nerve fibers in a child’s brain are more susceptible to trauma to the nerve fibers and disrupting the neural connections. Also, the musculature surrounding a young child’s neck and trunk are less developed, meaning there is less support causing a blow to the head to cause more force and motion of the brain in the skull.
(Public Broadcasting Service, 2015)
Rule: Lane etiquette
Rationale: When you enter a lane that already has a swimmer in it, you alert that person that you are entering the lane. When 2 swimmers share a lane, each person picks a side to swim laps and sticks to it. With three or more swimmers, everyone “circle swims”, meaning everyone stays to the right. If you must pass, alert the other person and don’t pass anyone who is near the end of the lane. This lane etiquette is important for lifeguards to enforce and for recreational swimmers to follow because the water inhibits out senses. Swimmer’s faces may be in the water, so they cannot see all of their surroundings clearly. Water distorts auditory stimuli. Bright sun may momentarily blind a swimmer. Different strokes cause different blind spots for a swimmer. Fifty percent of Olympic level synchronized swimmers have had a concussion. It is very difficult to control your body in the buoyancy of water, especially with current made by the waves of other team members. However, in competition it is ALL about the points, and teams gain more points the closer they move together and the ore complex their routines are, including throwing teammates into the air.
(Cimons, 2016; Gardner, 2016)
Rule: MLB 7.13 Home Plate Collisions- A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher; unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score
Rationale: Catchers in baseball were beginning to suffer from concussions more than any other position on the field. Collisions at home plate are literally a blind crash between two opposing forces, and they can result in both concussion as well as traumatic fractures.
(Major League Baseball, 2014; Tribou, 2014)
So remember, sports officials are not there for kicks and giggles, they are there to make sure the game is played fairly and safely in order for people to continue to play the games they love. So smile,…..
and always remember to hug your Ref 🙂
American Academy of Pediatrics (2000). Safety in Youth Ice Hockey: The Effects of Body Checking. Pediatrics, [online] 105(3). Available at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/105/3/657.full.pdf [Accessed 4 Aug. 2017].
Cimons, M. (2016). Swimming is supposed to be low-impact, so why the concussions?. [online] Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/swimming-is-supposed-to-be-low-impact-so-why-the-concussions/2016/12/09/aff3163e-b0d8-11e6-be1c-8cec35b1ad25_story.html?utm_term=.6dff5f9c8cef [Accessed 4 Aug. 2017].
Committee on Sports-Related Concussions in Youth, Board on Children, Youth, and Families, Institute of Medicine, National Research Council, Graham, R., Rivara, F., Ford, M. and Spicer, C. (2017). Sports-Related Concussions in Youth Improving the Science, Changing the Culture. Washington D.C,: National Academies Press (US), pp.17-19.
Gardner, D. (2016). Synchronized swimming bosses introduce new rules to prevent crashes. [online] Mail Online. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3699412/Synchronized-swimming-bosses-forced-introduce-new-rules-prevent-crashes-emerges-HALF-competitors-suffered-concussion.html [Accessed 4 Aug. 2017].
Major League Baseball (2014). Orbit had one final prank for mortal enemy Chris Archer before the Rays left town. [online] Major League Baseball. Available at: http://m.mlb.com/cutfour/2017/08/04/246386032 [Accessed 4 Aug. 2017].
National Football League (2017). 2017 Rules Changes and Points of Emphasis | NFL Football Operations. [online] Operations.nfl.com. Available at: http://operations.nfl.com/the-rules/2017-rules-changes-and-points-of-emphasis/ [Accessed 4 Aug. 2017].
Patra, K. (2017). NFL relaxing touchdown celebration rules for players. [online] NFL.com. Available at: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000810537/article/nfl-relaxing-touchdown-celebration-rules-for-players [Accessed 4 Aug. 2017].
Peters, C. (2013). Peewee Body-Checking Ban: Why Hockey Canada, USA Hockey are Getting it Right. [online] The United States of Hockey. Available at: https://unitedstatesofhockey.com/2013/05/31/peewee-body-checking-ban-why-hockey-canada-usa-hockey-are-getting-it-right/ [Accessed 4 Aug. 2017].
Public Broadcasting Service (2015). U.S. Soccer rolls out new rules to prevent kids’ concussions. [online] PBS NewsHour. Available at: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/u-s-soccer-rolls-new-rules-prevent-kids-concussions/ [Accessed 4 Aug. 2017].
Reyes, L. (2015). NFL reports reduction in concussions, new measures to protect players. [online] USA TODAY. Available at: https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2015/08/05/concussions-reduced-rule-changes-defenseless-injured-players/31189031/ [Accessed 4 Aug. 2017].
Tribou, D. (2014). New MLB Rule Cuts Home Plate Crashes, But Not Catcher Concussions. [online] NPR.org. Available at: http://www.npr.org/2014/11/09/362459949/new-mlb-rule-cuts-home-plate-crashes-but-not-catcher-concussions [Accessed 4 Aug. 2017].