When I was in fifth grade, I learned about Hammurabi’s Code. I won’t say that I remember every last detail about Mesopotamia from Social Studies that year, but the concept of “an eye for an eye” certainly caught my attention.
I realize now that the sporting world could learn a great deal from the Babylonian king.
Shortly after 6 pm on Saturday, Sept. 25, the Ivy football landscape was altered when Harvard quarterback Andrew Hatch suffered a concussion on his first play of the game against Brown. Hatch missed this past weekend’s game against Lafayette, and the verdict is still out on when he will return.
There was no penalty on the play, but even if there was, it’s hard to argue that lost yards on one possession would hurt the Bears nearly as much as the loss of its starting quarterback hurt the Crimson.
But more importantly, nothing can undo the damage of the concussion Hatch suffered.
Injuries are often considered to be another part of athletics. Football players in particular seem to be judged, unfairly or not, by their ability to take a hit. But concussions cannot be seen as simple bad luck.
The potential effects of head trauma sustained during a concussion—which include an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and psychiatric disorders—have recently come into the spotlight.
Head trauma from football appears to have played a role in the suicide of Penn football captain Owen Thomas and may have factored into the suicide of high school football player Austin Trenum.
This is where Hammurabi comes in. To be clear, the “eye for an eye” system I suggest does not involve inflicting concussions on players who give them to others. And it certainly wouldn’t solve the original problem of limiting concussions. sustained.
What I propose is that a player who gives someone else a concussion should sit out as many games as the player who sustains the concussion.
In both college athletics and the professional ranks, suspensions are most commonly given for off-field actions, but why should accountability be limited to off-field actions?
Suspending those who give other players concussions sends the message that the league—be it the NFL or the NCAA—will not tolerate the abuse of its players.
I recognize that I may sound somewhat biased, given my citation of the concussion suffered by my school’s quarterback. I would like to note that I am not accusing anyone of the Brown football team of intentionally hurting anyone on the Harvard team, including Hatch. The Bears played an excellent game of football and were the deserving victors.
My intention is not to punish but to suggest a framework that discourages concussion-inducing play.
Concussion research and legislation have moved towards understanding how to rest and care for players who have concussions.