Op-Ed: Violence in sports

Posted Dec 11, 2011 by Scott Gehrke
NFL, NHL and motorsports are commonly known as violent sports with the possibility of injury common. Is todays athlete in more danger than ever before?
An NHL hockey fight
A hockey fight between players Mike Rupp and Shawn Thornton
Photo by rubyswoon
In the aftermath of yesterday's NCAA college basketball game between arch rivals Xavier and Cincinnati which led to a bench clearing brawl, it is time to address the notion that today's athlete is more likely to suffer a serious injury than ever before.
While it has always been known that sports like the NFL, NHL and motorsports are violent by nature, it seems as though more players are suffering more life threatening injuries than ever before. Concussions have become more prevalent in sports. Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby missed an entire year of his career due to concussions. The list of players in the NFL and NHL are too numerous to mention. Even in Major League baseball, players like Justin Morneau have missed significant time due to concussions.
While injuries have always been a part of any sport, there is also an underlying problem that is showing itself more and more. It is true that contact has become more vicious as todays' atheles are bigger, stronger and faster than in years past, but that is due in part to the demand to stay physicaly fit year round. But there also seems to be an issue with the way players perform today. Players such as James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions are constantly being fined and suspended for illegal hits. The NHL has fined and suspended several players in the last couple of years for open ice hits and boarding calls.
This brings the conversation back to yesterday's game. With Xavier up by more than 20 points in the last ten seconds of the game, words were exchanged between players leading to an all out assault on Xavier players. Getting the worst of it was Xavier player Kenny Frease, who was punched in the eye and then kicked while he was down on the court.
In motorsports, accidents are a natural by-product of any number of race cars going as fast as 200 mph on an encircled track racing for two to four hours. But, when drivers like Kurt Busch from NASCAR intentionally hits other drivers causing them to wreck, you have crossed the line.
While it is true that the majority of athletes play by the rules, the old saying that one bad apple spoils the bunch is certainly true. The lack of self control and respect for the game seems more prevalent in today's athlete. They have forgotten that it not a right to play professional sports but rather a privilege. Athletes need to appreciate their gifts and their opportunities to play on the grand stages of professional sports and not take it for granted. And all sports administrative offices need to tighten their grip on their athletes in harsher fines and suspensions to send a clear message that unwarranted behavior will not be tolerated.