Football is a game known to be physical and aggressive, but on September 30th, a tragic event happened on the gridiron that shook the sport. The tragic event, was a death of 16-year-old linebacker, Dylan Thomas. Thomas, a Pike County High School football player, was announced dead on September 30th, According to Pike County Coroner, Terell A. Moody. Moody also said in a statement saying, “Dylan’s Official cause of death was a Cardiac Arrest, which was caused from a traumatic brain injury.”
With this event it has shaken numerous of people, including St. Cloud Tech High School football coach, Jon Brenson.
“I have always felt that the risks involved in football are out measured considerably by the benefits and the teaching, life lessons that are learned from playing football. But every time I hear something like this, it certainly makes you remember that it is a game after all. The big game is the game of life, and football seems pretty insignificant when you hear of tragedies such as this!” says Jon Brenson.
Throughout the years, the game of football has drastically changed, with the way coaches have taught players to tackle, to the new changes and upgrades with technology and equipment. They have even made changes with the way teams practice, especially here in Minnesota, with the Minnesota State High School League, MSHSL, implemented rules and restrictions with the amount of full contact that teams can have in a week.
“The technology that we have now as far as helmets is light-years ahead of anything I put on my head.” says Brenson.
An upgrade throughout the years have been the helmets for football players. One example of the upgraded helmet, has been the new release of the Schutt F7 Adult Football Helmet. The helmet is the first to feature padding on the outside of a shell, called the Three Dimensional Movement System, 3DM, which places strategically located tektonic plates on top of the helmet, which has a layer of TPU cushioning that help manage and move the energy that it absorbs from contact of players. Other features to the helmet include a larger twist release bumper located in both the front and the back of the helmet, that also includes an aggressive saw tooth design. In the inside of the helmet, it has a Radian Diffusion System liner, that is filled with padding. The padding also helps absorbs impact from hits, which softens to the head.
Brenson, also says with the new studies with the proper way to help players tackles, it has changed the way they have practiced.
“We have practiced tackling and obviously the heads up mentality, removing the head from the game completely. Brutality isn’t the objective. A lot of teams are going after the ball more, more than they are going after contact. We’re a team where the ball is our goal.”
With the new ways of teaching players how to tackle, teams have also used a different method to use when evaluating and treating athletes with concussions.
“They have definitely taken more steps,” says Senior Tech Linebacker Drew Kiffneyer. “I know now if we get a concussion, there’s a longer comeback process, it’s at least a week. You have to take it one day at a time, one day of practice with just your helmet, than with pads, just easing your way back into the swing of things before you participate in a full practice and game.”
With these types of changes being made to the game of football, both Kiffneyer and Brenson say that football has a bright future.
“I’m excited to see what the future has for football,” says Kiffneyer. “Concussion wise, I think it will go down, but they’re not going to be preventable totally, but I’m excited to see other changes being made within the upcoming years.”
Benson also feels strongly that football will keep changing in the right direction. “I feel strongly that football is going to work its way through this, and we’re going to find a happy medium. I am telling you that we have done a lot to make this game safer.”
The game of football will continue to make changes to help make the game safer for athletes for the upcoming years.