Pat & Frank look back at pre-nanny football
With “USA Today” calling it immoral to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday because of all the news this week about brain injuries sustained by football players that are only discovered during autopsies, we can not help but to remember that when we were growing up, in the early to mid 40s, there were still some college and pro football players who played without helmets. The NFL did not require players in that league to wear helmets until 1943. In grade school and junior high, in the Fall Frank and his buddies had almost daily pick up football games which were always rough, tough,anything goes, tackle (not tag or flag) games which were always played sans helmets or for that matter without any kind of pads.
The helmets that were used in the 1940s and in some cases into the early 1950s were rather crude, tight fitting, lightly padded leather helmets similar to those used by World War II military aviators. These helmets provided, at best minimal protection, to either the ballplayers or the pilots who wore them. Needless to say, concussions and head injuries were frequent among football players.
Helmet chin straps were not used until 1940 and plastic helmets were not introduced until 1939 and were not in wide spread use until the early and mid 1950s. Early versions of plastic football helmets often cracked or broke on impact significantly slowing the adoption of this type of head protection. Although manufacturers worked diligently to strengthen plastic football helmets,it was not until 1986 that the first poly-carbonate helmets came into use.
When we were in college we both knew quite a few football players.The one thing that all of these players had in common was the lack of their own front teeth. There were two reasons for that. First, plastic or rubber mouth guards were unheard of at that time and second face or nose guards had yet to be invented.
It was not until 1955 that the since banned, single bar face masks came into use.It took until 1962 for double bar face masks to be used and for the NFL to require their use by all of their players.Full face masks which debuted in 1975 were followed by protective visors in 1984. Needless to say. these various face masks combined with the almost universal use of plastic mouth guards have reduced injuries and allowed most contemporary football players to chew with their own front teeth.
Pat & Frank Fleming