Friday, August 05, 2011

New concussion guidelines

The National Football League released its 2011 Kickoff Guide, and two of the 110 pages addresses the league's "new sideline concussion protocol."  This new protocol, designed to provide some level of uniformity around the league for evaluating potential traumatic brain injuries during games, includes:

  • They will be told three numbers, such as 4-9-3, and asked to repeat them in reverse order.
  • They will be asked to stand with feet together, eyes closed, hands on hips and hold that position for 20 seconds.
  • They will be told a list of words (such as elbow, apple, carpet, saddle and bubble) and asked to repeat them back in any order.
  • They will be asked basic things like, “Who did we play last game?” and “What quarter is it?"
Additionally, a couple of related rule changes have been implemented, including:
  • "All kicking team players other than the kicker must be lined up no more than five yards behind their restraining line, eliminating the 15-20 yard running 'head start' that had become customary for many players."
  • "Illegal 'launching,' which has been defined as a player leaving both feet prior to contact to spring forward and upward into an opponent and delivering a blow with any part of the helmet, has been prohibited."
 Of course it could be argued that if the NFL was genuinely serious about ensuring the health and well-being of its players it could implement a different type of injured reserve (IR) status exclusive for players suffering from concussions.  Currently a player relegated to the IR is prohibited from returning until the following season.  On the other hand, Major League Baseball has implemented its seven day IR list for its players who are suffering the effects of a concussion.  A two-, or three-game IR list in the NFL would go a long way towards both ensuring the welfare of the players and demonstrating the sincerity of the league's concern.

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