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How helmets encourage football players to use their heads as weapons

How helmets encourage football players to use their heads as weapons
Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein (4) misses a fourth-quarter field goal against the New England Patriots during Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta on Feb. 3. (Bob Andres / TNS)

To the editor: For decades, football players have been coached to “stick your head in there” when blocking and tackling. This technique took hold because of the false sense of safety provided by the relatively new equipment of face masks and hard plastic helmets. (“High-tech helmets won’t solve the NFL’s concussion problem,” Opinion, Feb. 1)

Anyone who played before the early 1950s would never use his face or head as a weapon to punish an opponent. It isn't natural for a human being to smash his face against a hard object.

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My son recently told me he was timid when starting Pee Wee football in the 1970s but soon became aggressive when he realized he had a protective shell. As a consequence, he would actually hurtle himself like a spear when tackling.

There are many helmet designs and materials that give concussive protection, but we should ban the face mask. Does professional football have the stomach for such a change?

Carl Rinaldi, Woodland Hills

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To the editor: Leather or soft helmets like boxers wear in practice would be better for football players. These absorb impact rather than magnify it as hard helmets can do.

Brain damage is the result of severe shaking of the brain within the skull. If we’re looking at ways to protect the brain, we should use the human scalp, not the skull, as an example.

There would be less brain shaking if players did not use their hard helmets as weapons. They would try to protect their heads when coming into contact with another player if they didn’t have hard helmets.

As a family doctor, I have treated many high school football players with concussions. I like football, but I like my young patients much more. The NFL likes football, but it prefers profits to players.

Edward Gilbert, MD, Studio City

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