Do helmets make sports more violent?

Impossible to establish causality..but interesting points on moral hazard. Replace “helmets” with financial innovation and “sports” with finance and you have an interesting debate.

Introduction (via Decision Science News)

The hook of the article is that wearing helmets, which one would expect to make the game safer, could make the game more dangerous.

Point (via Decision Science News)

This is an example of moral hazard, which the Wikipedia (at least during the last five minutes) defines as a situation in which “a party insulated from risk behaves differently than it would behave if it were fully exposed to the risk.” The top 10 Google Scholar papers with “moral hazard” in the title have over 10,000 collective citations. You hear a lot about moral hazards, for example, that people began driving more recklessly when seat belts were invented, at cocktail parties, coffee breaks, dinners with visiting speakers, and other moments in which people say what they really think.

Is it possible that requiring lacrosse players to wear helmets will increase risk to players? I doubt it. My grounds for skepticism? TCTBT: too cute to be true.

Counter Point(via Decision Science News)

As someone with more than 30 years of (combined) lacrosse coaching and playing experience, my intuition leads me to believe that introducing helmets into the women’s game will increase the behaviors that put players at risk of injury. However, given that I regularly lecture on the fallibility of intuition, I also agree with Dan. I would like to see causal evidence before drawing a line in the sand. More important than just examining if helmets increase risky behavior, the analysis for deciding to institute helmets would need to balance the costs of the risky behavior against the benefits of the helmet. That is, the temporary bumps and bruises caused by more aggressive play may be worth incurring in order to reduce the risk of concussion. In that way, a thorough risk analysis would seem to be worth the price given the many thousands of women and girls who play the game.

The question of wearing a helmet creates a moral hazard in the game of lacrosse is complicated because the presence of the helmet would seem to influence more than just the offensive and defensive player’s behavior. The protection that a helmet provides could influence the way that the official monitors the game. Officials could more laxly (no pun intended) enforce the rules because they perceive the aggressive behavior as less risky, which in turn could further increase aggressiveness.

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24. February 2011 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Curated Readings, Psychology & Sociology | Leave a comment

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