The NFL announced earlier this week that it would begin introducing new concussion testing protocols in an attempt to be better able to identify those players who have suffered a serious brain injury. Beginning next season players will be asked a battery of questions, including the date, their location and their previous opponents with all the questions appearing on iPads.
The post injury sideline concussion assessment will now be put into an app form and given to all 32 teams in the league. The goal is that by asking and answering questions on an electronic device, real time results and comparisons to the player’s baseline score given prior to the start of the season will provide help to doctors tasked with assessing a player’s brain condition.
The new iPad app will work by asking the players a standard set of questions and will allow doctors to monitor their progress as it compares to their baseline score. For example, if a player’s baseline showed they were able to remember 10 out of 10 words in an earlier assessment, but the post injury report shows that the player is only able to remember two words, the doctor will be made aware of the problem immediately and not have to wait to check the results.
Though the high-tech gadgets sound fun, the NFL announced another change that doesn’t involve electronic gizmos. The NFL will also ensure that there are independent neurological consultants present on the sideline during each and every game. These consultants will be available to help the team doctors assess and treat players who have sustained serious bumps.
The NFL Players’ Association has responded tepidly to the recent news. While they are fine with the iPad administered assessment, the union is suspicious about the independent doctors’ role which appears to be less powerful than they had hoped. The players’ union had been pushing for years to have independent doctors added to the sidelines and always said they wanted the doctors to have sole authority in administering and assessing injured athletes. The rationale is that team doctors are usually busy tending to other ailments and don’t have the time to accurately assess something as serious as a brain injury. The independent neurological consultant would serve as an extra set of eyes whose sole job is to monitor the players’ for concussion injuries.
The player’s union also warned that the NFL should not consider the sideline assessment the be-all and end-all tool in determining whether a concussion has occurred. After all, concussions manifest themselves differently in each person and no one checklist will be able to spot all head injuries. A good example of the weakness of such tests happened last year when San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith sustained a serious hit to his head, hard enough to cause blurred vision. Despite the hard knock he was allowed to stay in the game for several more plays before being removed. Only later did a test reveal that he had suffered a concussion.
Pope McGlamry P.C., currently represents former professional football players for injuries and damages sustained as a result of suffering concussions while playing football, and is actively involved in this litigation. If you or someone you love has been injured by a sports-related concussion, you may be entitled to compensation.
Source: “N.F.L. Will Expand Concussion Efforts During Games,” by Judy Battista, published at NYTimes.com.
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