San Francisco 49ers co-chair Dr. John York told CSNBayArea.com on Saturday that he believes the helmet is so ingrained in the tradition of American football that he does not believe that will ever change.
The BBC reported this week that York said he could see a time in which helmets are banned from football. But York said his comments were incorrectly interpreted, though he said there could be adjustments made concerning three-point stances that prompt helmet-to-helmet contact among linemen.
York is the chair of the NFL’s health and safety advisory committee. He is also a member of the league's international committee.
The NFL is trying to change the culture of football from using the helmet as a weapon for administering highlight-reel hits to legislating the head out of accepted tackling fundamentals.
There is no indication the league has conducted any serious conversations at this point about the possibility of removing of helmets from the sport to shift more toward rugby or Australian rules football.
In an interview at the NFL owners meetings in May, York pointed to statistics that reveal concussions are down from previous seasons. He said he believes football has gotten more safe in recent seasons.
Concussions are down 36 percent over the past two seasons, York said. Last season, there were 0.46 diagnosed concussions per game, York said. Helmet-to-helmet hits are down close to 50 percent during that same period, he said.
“There is a culture change,” York said. “Coaches understand that, and the majority of players understand that. So there has been change. Those are the things that can be done without the long-term research.”
The health concerns of players had a major impact on the 49ers this offseason. Offensive lineman Anthony Davis, 25, and linebacker Chris Borland, 24, cited concerns from the long-term effects of head trauma for walking away from the sport.
The NFL first required all players to wear hard-leather helmets in 1943. The league officially adopted plastic helmets in 1949. In 1955, single-bar facemasks were added to helmets.