One of the NFL's hot button topics over the past year or so has been the prevalence of concussions throughout the league. Two Eagles missed time in 2009 because of concussion-related symptoms, including running back Brian Westbrook who twice suffered a concussion during the season.
Often, the biggest hits in an NFL game take place in the secondary, where defensive backs are primed to "light up" a receiver. Recently, Eagles safety Quintin Mikell discussed what it feels like after a big hit, the biggest hit of his career and the role of helmets in football with Stephen J. Dubner, one of the co-authors of the best-selling book "Freakonomics". The full conversation can be heard on the New York Times' Freakonomics blog.
The biggest hit of my career "was with (Oakland Raiders' running back) Justin Fargas," said Mikell. Fargas "was running towards the sideline and I was running towards him and we're both headed towards the sideline. It was almost like neither one of us was going to back down because we knew it was either going to be a big collision or not. He could have run out of bounds, but I just knew he was going to try and run me over just watching him in film. Essentially what happened was we ran full speed into each other and pretty much knocked each other out. I tried to get up a little too soon and I fell back down and was wobbly-kneed. Eventually, the trainers pulled me out. They were like, 'You can't go back in right now.' Actually, he came out for a few plays too, so we both knocked each other out."
"As a competitor, you never know if he's going to get up or not so you want to be the first one up and you want to make sure that you didn't take the loss right there. Essentially, I think I won because I got up before he did, even though I was wobbly-kneed."
Mikell went on to give an interesting description of what one's head feels like following a big collision.
"It's a really odd feeling," he said. "The first thing you get is everything starts to vibrate. Like if you laid your head on your cell phone and put it on vibrate and had someone call you, that's what it felt like for me. So instantly, I actually saw it on film, instantly I tried to grab my helmet to try to steady everything and then after that initial vibration it's almost like you're kind of in a dream. You're just kind of floating and your legs are like jell-o. You're trying to stand up and your mind is trying to tell your body to do it but your body and everything is disconnected so you pretty much just fall back flat on your face."
Still, Mikell says that contact is his favorite aspect of playing football.
"I like the contact," he said. "That's what makes the game fun. You've got these receivers out there taunting you and you finally get a chance to wallop them, that's good for me."
One idea to curb concussions league-wide that has been floated is to eliminate helmets altogether. The theory goes that, without helmets, players would use their arms to tackle ball-carriers as opposed to launching with their heads first.
"There would be a lot less head injuries," Mikell said, when asked about what football would be like without helmets. "I know that for a fact. And I can say that the tackling would actually be a lot different. Nobody wants to mess their face up willingly so you wouldn't go in head first, you wouldn't go in trying to destroy somebody, you'd go in just to get them on the ground and maybe it wouldn't be as exciting, I'm not sure, but I know there wouldn't be as many injuries."
But, being a football player, Mikell still wouldn't trade the game he knows for one without helmets. Asked whether he could still have fun on the football field if helmets were eliminated from the game, Mikell responded, "I don't think I would."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 10:01 p.m., February 9