rob-gronkowski-tears-acl-2013Concussions or torn ACLs: that’s the dilemma dividing the NFL right now.

The current players all say they’d rather suffer a concussion and only miss two or three weeks than a torn ACL and miss up to a year. The NFL league office disagrees, saying that concussions have lasting effects that cause serious mental damage to its players.

The NFL put an emphasis on avoiding hits to the head and avoiding helmet-to-helmet collisions this offseason. The result? An increased amount of torn ligaments in players knees.

Last season, 32 NFL players suffered season ending ACL injuries. Through 13 games this season, 40 players have suffered season-ending ACL injuries.

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was the latest victim of the NFL’s new rules. In yesterday’s game against the Cleveland Browns, Gronkowski needed to be carted off the field after taking a gruesome hit from TJ Ward. Reports today confirmed every Patriots fans’ worst nightmare: Gronk tore his ACL and his MCL.

Before this season and the new rule changes, Ward would have almost certainly tried to hit Gronk higher in an effort to make Gronk drop the ball. But referees have started to call 15-yard personal foul penalties on that play, so Ward went low — just like the NFL wants.

It’s a no-win situation for defensive players, and the NFL is in a serious predicament too. If the number of ACL injuries keeps going up, the NFL Players Association will have to try and do something to protect its players.

In an interview with ESPN's Colin Cowherd before the season, future Hall-of-Famer Tony Gonzalez said he’d much rather suffer a concussion than a torn ACL. Other players have spoken out publicly about the same issue as well.

This is a dilemma that may not ever be resolved for the NFL.

Protecting players' heads and brains has to be a huge area of concern, but so is protecting players’ knees. The NFL can’t implement a new rule that says, “You can’t tackle high or low. You must tackle the offensive player at the waist,” because that’s not possible.

There isn’t a solution to this issue, and it’s only going to become more prevalent as more and more big time players suffer serious knee injuries.

By Mike Lucas


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