Will TE Hayden Hurst’s Stunning PTA Diagnosis Accelerate the NFL’s Flag Football Plans?

Published 12/07/2023, 11:08 AM EST

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It seems like the Carolina Panthers’ woes are never-ending. After a 1-11 record so far in the regular NFL season, there’s more bad news for the team. For the remainder of the season, the team will be playing without a key offensive weapon, tight end Hayden Hurst. In the game vs. the Chicago Bears, on November 9, he took a brutal hit while making a catch.

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The aftermath of the crash has raised questions as to the nature of the game and whether the NFL should up its ante on player protection rules. On the flip side, there have also been complaints from former and current players that the new rules make it seem like tackle football is morphing into flag football. How will the NFL strike a balance between the two?

Why is Hayden Hurst’s injury a wake-up call for the NFL?

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In the week following the injury, Hurst had returned for limited practice on Wednesday. That gave some relief to Panthers’ fans, who then began to think that all was well despite the violent collision he had endured during the game. Then, JPAFootball took to X to announce that an independent neurologist had diagnosed Hurst with Post Traumatic Amnesia. The diagnosis will prevent him from playing another game indefinitely. What is PTA? In PTA “a person forgets parts of what happened before and after an injury”.

A study conducted by Boston University found CTE in 345 of 376 former NFL players it had studied. That’s an alarming 91.76%! The NFL acknowledged this and made sweeping rule changes to make the game safer for players. The most recent example includes the NFL expanding the “Impermissible Use of the Helmet” rule to make it a foul for players to use their helmets to spear or ram into other players. Then there’s the “roughing the passer” rule which added an extra layer of safety around the QB, making the defenders walk on eggshells in order not to commit a foul. 

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But these rules have not made everyone happy. In a podcast with Stephen A Smith, the GOAT of football, and 7x Super Bowl Champion, Tom Brady lamented that the game had become so diluted and that a lot of mediocrity had crept into the game. What was the major reason for this? He cited a few ex-players and said that “every hit they would have made would have been a penalty [today]”. If the new rules are supposedly reducing the appeal of the game, then why is the NFL pushing for them?

Is it possible that the NFL will morph into flag football eventually?

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A CDC study published in Sports Health found definitively that flag football is much safer than tackle football. It found that tackle football players suffered approximately 19 times more head impacts per game than flag football players. And conventional wisdom would also suggest the same. In flag football, instead of hard physical contact while tackling, players just have to remove a piece of fabric or “flag” from the opponent player’s uniform.

Flag football will also help the NFL in attaining its ambitious $25 billion revenue goal by 2027, as stated by Roger Goodell. While the Olympics has hesitated about including tackle football, the 2028 Summer Olympics will see flag football as part of its assortment for the first time. Since flag football is just a toned-down version of the football that Americans love, it’s almost certain that the US will dominate this sport in the Olympics.

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But surprisingly, when the NFL finally decided to take drastic steps in order to make the game safer for players, as players had been demanding, there has been pushback against this. 4x NFL MVP, Aaron Rodgers, while responding to Tom Brady’s comments, said, “I think people want to see football be a collision sport. And not, you know, to where guys are getting mangled on the field, but they enjoy the big hits. Is it better in certain areas for player safety? 100%. Have we gone too far in certain rules? 100% as well.” Can the NFL manage to walk the tightrope and emerge victorious on the other side?

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Written by:

Jakso James

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I am a hardcore believer in the ?Mamba Mentality?, which certainly applies to the NFL. The sport is not just about physical prowess but also demands a powerful mindset. Growing up, I spent time with athletes on the neighborhood soccer field.
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