Finally: N.F.L. Issues New Concussion Rules To Protect Players' Brains

By Aline Reynolds | December 3, 2009 6:12 pm

football-3The N.F.L. has maintained for years that if a player suffers a concussion during a football game, then that player is in no danger from returning to the field as soon as his symptoms are gone. However, after much recent criticism about how the league is handling their players’ safety, the N.F.L. announced on Wednesday that it would impose its most stringent rules to date on managing concussions, requiring players who exhibit any significant sign of concussion to be removed from a game or practice and be barred from returning the same day [The New York Times]. The rule is based on research showing that concussion symptoms can reappear hours, or even days, after the initial injury. However, the key word in the new guidelines is “significant,” and some are questioning whether the N.F.L.’s definition is broad enough.

Under the new rule, symptoms that require immediate removal include amnesia, poor balance and an abnormal neurological examination, whether or not those symptoms quickly subside [The New York Times]. However, concussion symptoms can often be subtle and range from inability to remember their team’s plays to persistent dizziness or headaches. Still, under the new rules, players suffering these symptoms can return to play as long as their ailments are not persistent.

While players are encouraged to be honest with their team’s doctors, a professional athletes’ competitive spirit often intercedes, and experts worry that players may be temped to either hide or underplay their symptoms in order to get back on the field. Nearly one-fifth of 160 NFL players surveyed by The Associated Press from Nov. 2-15 replied that they have hidden or played down the effects of a concussion [AP]. Several high profile NFL players, including both quarterbacks from last years Super Bowl, Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner, are currently out of action after suffering concussions.

Related Content:
80beats: Is Playing College Football Enough to Damage a Brain for Life?
80beats: Emerging Pattern Shows Football Can Cause Devastating Brain Damage
DISCOVER: Lights Out asks whether contact sports can lower intelligence

Image: flickr / rdesai

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Rex Harrison

    What change. The peole trusted to implement the policy are so-called indpendent neurosurgeons and neurologists that include people like Joe Maroon, who is on the Steelers payroll, on the NFL concussion committee and owns and sells the cognitive test, ImPact, used exclusively by the league. He even stated during congressional hearing that the NFL concussion protocol should be used in all schools. Such a change in a month. He stood firmly on policy now reject in the face of years of science.

    Furthermore, this independent doctor, stated Roethlisberger was cleared the Monday after his concussion. How does a player who has a documented traumtic brain injury with an obvious concussion clear in a day? Maybe the backup having a back injury had something to do with it. Thankfully, Ben kept complaining.

    Everyone who sat on the NFL concussion committee should be removed as they willfully and wantonly risked player health in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that was over a decade old.

  • akorozco

    It’s about time the NFL started taking care of its players.

  • fatkid

    These guys are millionares, don’t feel sorry for them. I want to see contact in football, not a bunch off sugar plum fairies. First they stop replaying hockey fights, now this! We are not French, we are American.

  • ruthamcau

    Thank you for this intresting article. :-)eg Cinotti


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.

See More

Collapse bottom bar