April 10, 2005

Leaving It All On the Field: Former NFL player Al Lucas died Sunday making a tackle in an Arena League game, a tragedy that brought up a little-known fact about pro football: "Several NFL players have died shortly after games, though no one has been declared dead on the field." Lucas was a former winner of the Buchanan Award as the best defensive player in Division I-AA college football.

posted by rcade to football at 10:06 PM - 5 comments

Nobody should die playing a sport ever, I say that and my grandfather had a heart attck on his favourite golf course at 65. But if it was possible to protect these players from such spinal injuries I think the NFL would have come up with it, they seem to cover every other base don't they... no celebrations, long ad breaks, super bowl half time show I mean they think of everything else.....

posted by bballcoachreid at 06:10 PM on April 11, 2005

bballcoachreid, the typical mechanism of injury for a cervical spine injury -- the kind that can kill you -- is what they call "axial loading", meaning a sudden load on the top of the head. It could be caused by something heavy falling straight down on you, or it could be caused by landing on your head (as, for example, by a dive into shallow water). I can't really envision a type of protective equipment that would prevent that sort of injury. A big huge foam pillow on top of your head, maybe...

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:17 PM on April 11, 2005

Axial Loading ( I had to look it up)? Is that supposed to be how Lucas was killed here? So the problem would be force to the top of the head travelling down the spinal column from C to T to L in that direction, right? Humans really aren't made for that sort of impact, at least not above a certain level of force being applied...compared to a Pachycephalosaurus, for example, supposedly having a ten inch thick skull and locking vertebrae. I don't think anyone could actually play the game with a ten inch thick helmet and a locked & supported neck, like wearing a neck collar or something.

posted by chris2sy at 11:47 PM on April 11, 2005

chris2sy, yeah, as I understand it, that's the mechanism. I don't know if that's exactly what happened to Lucas, but again, that's typical. It's one of those injuries for which I don't think there really is a protective gear solution...kind of like an ACL, if there was a protective knee brace that would prevent ACL tears and still let you bend your knee and play the game, every skier and basketball player would be wearing one. Instead, it's a matter of knowing that there are certain dangerous moves that you must avoid.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 05:56 AM on April 12, 2005

I don't think the NFL could suffer any in-game fatalities without losing a lot of casual viewers (though perhaps it would be as durable in this regard as NASCAR). I can trace my loss of interest in boxing directly to the death of Duk Koo Kim. (Until finding this link, I didn't know that the fight's referee and Kim's mother both subsequently committed suicide. Yeesh.)

posted by rcade at 07:20 AM on April 12, 2005

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