So I’ve been flipping through American Football: How The Game Evolved, and one thing struck me as fascincating–for as dangerous as we make football out to be today (and don’t get me wrong, I understand it is a sport that can cause significant harm to people who play it), the game is still significantly safer today than it was in it’s early days.
In 1910, there were significant rule changes made to the game of college football, including a rule that required seven men on the line of scrimmage at the snap–a rule that eliminated the “mass play” (think rugby scrum). The reason for these changes? Critics of the game complained after 10 deaths were caused during the 1909 season, including an Army cadet in a game against Harvard, and a Virginia player in a game against Georgetown.
The scariest part? After some earlier rule changes in 1906, the game had enjoyed three seasons relatively free from criticism leading up to 1909–but those seasons saw three deaths in 1906, two in 1907, and six in 1908.