Go Back to Wearing Leather Helmets

Sunday’s two NFL playoff games provided several ESPN Sports Center-worthy big hits resulting in players getting carted off the field.


The most popular sport in America is becoming its most dangerous as well. Not surprisingly, the TV ratings are surging. The NFL now tops Hollywood in viewership. Savagery sells.


I asked my friend Keith, a veteran of fourteen NFL seasons, what he thought could be done to help reduce the epidemic of concussions suffered by players. His belief is that player size and speed certainly contribute to the plague of injuries. He went on to say, however, that better equipment is actually intensifying the problem.


Players lead with their heads as they block and tackle since they believe the new helmet technology will protect them from head trauma. Evidence suggests the opposite. Up to 15% of football players now suffer mild traumatic brain injury each season. The problem is getting worse, not better.


This paradox of technology shows up everywhere. Do four-wheel drive and antilock brakes result in increased safety? Data suggests they do but they also allow us to drive faster and brake later resulting in increased recklessness.


The more important questions concern the behavioral conclusions we reach regarding work, parenting and faith. Is networking technology that allows us to virtually connect anywhere with anyone accelerating efficiency or actually reducing real relationships and teamwork to IMs and webcasts?


Are smart phone apps that track our children’s whereabouts at all times keeping them safer or actually encouraging us to avoid difficult conversations?


Are podcast sermons allowing us to feed our soul at our convenience or just promoting that we skip being in messy community with other broken sojourners?


Keith’s solution to player’s head injuries is to go back to wearing leather helmets.


Perhaps the same reasoning should be applied to work and life. I’m not arguing for a return to the “good old days.” Once examined, the good old days are often not nearly as good as reported.


But perhaps a safer way to live, parent and work is to be a little afraid. Fear often leads to caution. And caution might cause us all to be more tuned in to the dangers of over work, under parenting and convenient faith. Going back to family dinners, real conversations with colleagues and faith in community—notions as quaint as leather helmets—might serve to mitigate the risk of permanent injury.


DO less. BE more.