special teams seeing serious neck injuries
You hardly heard about these injuries. I think the texan's injury was mentioned on this board but it appears there were a few others.
KICK RETURNS GETTING MORE HAZARDOUS
Through three weeks of the 2007 NFL season, there have been four serious neck injuries during kick returns.
Four. In three weeks.
Two of them were well publicized. In Week One, Kevin Everett of the Bills fractured his C-3 and C-4 veterbrae. In Week Three, Cedric Killings of the Texans suffered a fracture of the C-4 vertebra in his neck.
The other two have not received much attention. And they happened on the same play.
Per a league source, Packers guard Tony Palmer and Giants defensive end Adrian Awasom collided during a kick return in Week Two. Palmer's injury was reported as a "small-bone fracture in his neck," and Awasom's was dubbed a "fractured transverse process."
The source tells us that both men actually broke the C-4 facet bone (whatever that means) during their violent collision.
Palmer and Awasom never lost feeling in their extremities, but we're told that they both were millimeters away from an outcome like Everett's.
What is it with kick returns and neck injuries? Part of the problem is that the players generate maximum momentum as the coverage unit roars down the field. So when the players come together and instinctively dip their helmets just before collision, they ultimately are placing maximum pressure on the most delicate of regions in this bodies, and putting their lives in peril.
So what can be done? Some league insiders advocate outlawing the "wedge," a blocking formation that attempts to take out as many defenders as possible in the hopes of springing the ball carrier toward the end zone. One source thinks that only one substitution per team should be allowed after a kick off, with the kicking team replacing the kicker and the receiving team bringing in the quarterback, in order to encourage coaches to be less reckless with the health and welfare of the guys who engage in this inherently dangerous activity. If, the theory goes, a team's starters are on the field, greater care will be taken to ensure that guys don't throw caution completely to the wind in an effort to get noticed.
Other possibilities include moving the kickoff back up to the 35, reducing the amount of distance over which the players can gather momentum. Or requiring the players covering the kick to assume a three-point stance before the kick, eliminating the CFL-style running start. Or expanding the game-day active roster so that players who dress out due to injury concerns on the offensive line, for example, aren't pressed into service on special teams when it's not one of their strong suits. Or instituting a weight limit for kick coverage and return teams, since the four guys who suffered neck injuries in three weeks were all larger men. Or, more generally, finding ways to make the outer shell of the helmet less hard, since players will continue to use the protective device as an weapon of choice.
But the goal of this piece isn't to identify a definitive solution -- it's to highlight the problem. And the problem seems real to us, and to others.
As one league source told us on Tuesday, "Plenty of people got worked up about the Bill Belichick situation, but cheating isn't going to put any of these players in wheelchairs."
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