NFL Concussion Protocol Needs Improvement
If you’ve watched the NFL at all this year, you’ve likely seen or heard about the increased emphasis that’s been placed on the sport’s concussion protocol. The protocol is designed to protect players who may have suffered a traumatic brain injury while on the field of play.
The protocol is also important because it sets an example for other sports leagues throughout the country. If the NFL places emphasis on concussions and traumatic brain injuries, it makes sense that youth sports would begin to follow suit. Traumatic brain injuries are very serious and can have long-lasting impacts.
Unfortunately, the NFL needs to make drastic improvements to their concussion protocol to better protect their players and set an example for the rest of the country.
Changing The Stigma Of Traumatic Brain Injuries
In society, especially when it comes to sports, there has always been a stigma that exists regarding concussions and traumatic brain injuries. “You’re fine,” “tough it out,” and “rub some dirt on it” were all phrases we heard growing up. Football players especially have been instilled with the “get back out there” mentality.
This attitude toward injuries has trickled down to youth sports and has become ingrained in our society’s culture, so much so that it’s seen as the status quo by the time athletes are paid to play. The NFL concussion protocol is supposed to take the advice of an independent head-injury spotter who is in the press box. If they notice a player who looks to exhibit the symptoms of a concussion, they are supposed to call down and have that player removed from the game. There, athletic team doctors and neuro-trauma specialists evaluate a player before clearing them to return.
Unfortunately, entirely too many players have indicated that the concussion protocol is easily faked. Herm Edwards, who played in the NFL for 10 seasons, coached for 22, and now is the head coach at Arizona State University, said he would have tried to fake the protocol if he played today, saying, “If I could function and it didn’t hurt the team….the only guys who don’t hurt in football are the guys who don’t play.”
Additionally, Doug Baldwin, wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks, has said on the record that today’s players do indeed fake the protocol. He stated that the ability to cheat the protocol is “relatively known around the league” and that “we know the protocol, so if you are cognitively there somewhat then you can cheat the system.”
Protecting Our Youth
As more information about concussions, traumatic brain injuries, and CTE comes to light, the more people realize how devastating these injuries are. Of kids aged 6-14, football participation has declined nearly 30% since 2010. The NFL has a business incentive to keep players on the field, but they have an even bigger incentive for keeping them off the field.
Not only does keeping players off the field draw attention to a serious issue and set an example for America’s youth, but it could also protect them from future lawsuits. A growing number of former NFL players are suing the league because of how they hid information about concussions in years past.