December 03, 2009
The NFL announced a new policy yesterday in regards to when a player can return from a concussion. Is it a great policy that will change the NFL and cut down on later life problems from head trauma? Nope. But I guess it's nice that they did something.
Here's what we've got:
The new policy states, in part: "Once removed for the duration of a practice or game, the player should not be considered for return-to-football activities until he is fully asymptotic, both at rest and after exertion, has a normal neurological examination, normal neuropsychological testing, and has been cleared to return by both his team physician(s) and the independent neurological consultant." [...]
The memo also says that 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."
That last part, which I call the "Please don't a fibber" clause, we'll go ahead and ignore, because it doesn't mean anything. A policy encourages players to tell the truth? Genius! Remind them to floss, too!
The first part, though, has the potential to do some good. I'm glad that independent doctors are involved, and I'm glad that a player will have to have a normal neurological exam before returning.
The problem is, though, that if a player and/or a coach really wants to find a way around this, they'll always be able to. Players are still going to lie because they want to play. They're going to lie because their jobs are on the line. They're going to lie because of the ridiculous tough-guy mentality that exists among athletes and men in general.
Say a tight end goes out there and get knocked dizzy. What's stopping him from pretending those cobwebs aren't there, telling team physicians that his neck's just a little sore? The policy says that the neuro testing is mandatory only after a player is out for "the duration of a practice or game," so what if he gets clubbed in the head in the first quarter, and a coach decides he really needs him in the fourth?
Again, I'm glad it's something, even though I'm not always thrilled with how the NFL deals with concussions. I don't think this is a problem, though, that can be solved with a policy. It's going to take a major change in attitude and culture among NFL players, and that's a way bigger task than drafting any new policy.
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