JM Rieger

Hard hits are a part of football, especially in the NFL. These hits are often featured in highlights, especially on ESPN, which has changed the basic culture of football.

Even with the removal of halftime segments such as Jacked Up!, big hits are still featured in highlight reels and encourage younger generations to make bigger, more punishing hits to get their respective play on ESPN.

Players have become bigger, faster and stronger over time, which has resulted in the need for better equipment and more rules to protect players, especially regarding helmet-to-helmet hits.

These hits are not good for football because not only are they unnecessary, but they also put the health of other, often defenseless players at risk.

The recent crackdown by the NFL on helmet-to-helmet and vicious hits has led to some outrage by current and retired players.

Players such as Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison contemplated retiring after being fined for two hard hits in a game against the Cleveland Browns, while other players, like retired New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, admitted to setting aside a portion of money before the start of every season in anticipation for the fines they would receive.

These actions are not productive and in fact suggest the fines issued by the NFL for illegal hits do not act as a deterrent for players.

Rather, they simply present a low hurdle for players to jump, allowing them to continue to make dangerous plays that risk the health of other players.

In athletics, your body is everything. If that is ruined, your career is all but over. Therefore, the health of the players should be the number one concern for the NFL. Defensive players must realize this, and must have respect for their fellow players.

The death of Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry more than a year ago clearly illustrates the urgency of continuing to crack down on vicious hits and tackles in the NFL.

At the time of his death, Henry had a form of degenerative brain damage called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is caused by multiple hits to the head.

Multiple former NFL players have been found to have similar conditions at the time of their deaths, and these cases of brain damage alone should be enough for NFL players to change the way they play the game.

Yes, NFL players chose to play football for a career and are well aware of many of the risks they are susceptible to.

However, no one should ever be exposed to the risks many of these players face every Sunday.

Plus, the fact that Henry was a wide receiver, which is often considered to be one of the positions with the lowest risk of chronic injuries, again shows the urgency of changing the culture of the NFL.

Fans must begin to demand change, especially with regard to big hits being included in highlights.

If people want to continue to see their favorite players on the field every Sunday, then they also must have a basic level of respect for them and their health.