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NFL "updates" concussion policy

Over the last few weeks, the issue of concussions in NFL has gotten a lot of ink.  It reached a bizarre level when Hines Ward made what seemed to be disparaging comments about his QB Ben Roethlisberger, who was coming off a concussion.  Ward has since apologized and we'll see how this effects the Steelers locker room.  However, beyond that, concussions have been one of the hot topics throughout the league this season.

Well, yesterday, the NFL released a "new and expanded statement on return-to-play for a player who sustains a concussion," which will take effect this week.  The league's medical committee in conjunction with the NFLPA and a variety of outside medical experts basically came up with more specific details for returning to play, most of which encourage a more conservative approach to returning players to the field.

The way it breaks down, a player who suffers a concussion should not return to play or practice on the same day if any of the following symptoms or signs is identified based on the initial medical evaluation of the player:

  • Loss of consciousness;
  • Confusion as evidenced by disorientation to person, time or place; inability to respond appropriately to questions; or inability to remember assignments or plays;
  • Amnesia as evidenced by a gap in memory for events occurring just prior to the injury; inability to learn and retain new information; or a gap in memory for events that occurred after the injury;
  • Abnormal neurological examination, such as abnormal pupillary response, persistent dizziness or vertigo, or abnormal balance on sideline testing.
  • New and persistent headache, particularly if accompanied by photosensitivity, nausea, vomiting or dizziness;
  • Any other persistent signs or symptoms of concussion.

While the league seems to be taking this seriously, the committee indicated that "[a] critical element of managing concussions is candid reporting by players of their symptoms following an injury. Accordingly, players are to be encouraged to be candid with team medical staffs and fully disclose any signs or symptoms that may be associated with a concussion."

Obviously that'd be great, but isn't candid reporting by players one of the big problems?  Some players are willing to take a step back and deal with the health issues, while many others go right back on the field.  The various examinations and tracking of symptoms is very important.  However, I think it's equally, if not more, important to deal with the issue of players willingness to be more candid.  I do think it's improved from decades past, but given Hines Ward's comments, it's clearly still an issue.