There are any number of issues that have pushed the NFL to the brink of a work stoppage (and nearly all of them come down to some sort of financial concern), yet few are more politically charged or are fiercely debated than the idea to expand the regular season to 18 games. The NFL Players Association is deeply opposed to such a shift, and cites increased health risks as a primary motivation for why an expanded regular season is a non-starter.
Interestingly, the California Interscholastic Federation is facing a nearly identical question, with the CIF proposing expanding the state's playoff system to include regional playoffs, a proposal that would increase a team's total games to 16 for a number of regional playoff qualifiers, possibly including Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame Academy, pictured above. That proposal led to a rabble of concern from high school coaches, who felt that 16 games might be too many for the safety of teenagers.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the CIF consulted with a panel of doctors, asking them if playing 16 games would pose any significant increase in the health risk facing California football players. According to CIF associate director Roger Blake, the answer to that question was a resounding, "who knows?"
"[There is] absolutely no medical or scientific data that supports a recommendation in any direction," Blake told the Times.
Instead, the doctors the CIF consulted claimed that each coach's routine actually had a much greater impact on injury rates, noting that everything from number of practices to intensity and length could have a significant impact on the health risk facing a player.
Those claims seem to put the onus on player injuries squarely back on the shoulders of coaches, the very group which questioned whether schedule expansion was a safe idea. As of yet, no resolution to the concept has been brought forth, with any playoff expansion not eligible to begin until 2012 at the earliest.
Do the findings from the panel of doctors hold any clues as to whether NFL schedule expansion is in the offing? It's an interesting parallel that could prove far more instructive than the CIF and the state's coaches ever imagined ... or intended.