Friday, November 25, 2011

NFL Takes First Step In Helping To Better Monitor In-Game Injuries On The Football Field

The NFL sent a memo out to all 32 teams this past week informing them of a new change to their injury protocols in-game.  
“A direct ring-down phone line must be in place from the NFL Observer position in the press box to both the home and visiting bench areas. This line should be clearly marked on the NFL Observer’s phone. The purpose of the additional phone lines is to allow the NFL Observer to alert the Athletic Training staff to a possible injury that may have been missed at field-level.”
This isn't at all a surprise.  Ever since the NFL has begun to make a big deal about helmet-first hits and fines/suspensions for illegal hits during the games, concussions and their management have taken center stage in the public's eye.  Five years ago, a huge hit on a player would cause nothing but celebration.  Now, the sight of a player down on the ground provokes discussions of concussions, neck injuries, and brain trauma.

With this enlightened view on head trauma, even casual fans are able to recognize signs of a player who has been concussed.  Now that they know what to look for, they are righteously upset when someone leaves the game with an apparent concussion only to come back in again.  

The NFL, despite its efforts to inform every team of its serious intent to better manage concussions, has watched many teams attempt to circumvent their directive.

The most serious incident was San Diego Chargers lineman Kris Dielman, who suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter of a game but finished the game.  Dielman suffered a massive grand mal seizure on the plane ride home and has been placed on IR for the rest of the season.  Had he been properly removed from the game and diagnosed, he would probably still get to play this year.

Dielman's not the only one to receive poor treatment from his team.  Michael Vick has suffered apparent head injuries in three separate games this year, and was allowed to return in one of them even despite the appearance of being concussed when he was first hit.  New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller hit his head after a dive over another player.  Despite getting up wobbly, and apparently "passing" the concussion tests, he was allowed to return.

The NFL knows that it's going to be held liable in the future for lawsuits regarding concussions, especially when a concussion should have been diagnosed properly and that player prevented from returning to play before they were fully healed.  This observer/phone step is just the first step.  It won't be long until there are independent neurosurgeons on the sidelines to protect the players from themselves and their team.  

It's the right thing to do.

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