As widely expected, the NFL has promulgated new rules regarding the ability of a player to return to action after suffering a concussion.
Commissioner Roger Goodell informed the clubs of the new rules today. They take effect with games starting this week.
“The evidence demonstrates that team medical staffs have been addressing concussions in an increasingly cautious and conservative way,” Goodell said in a memo to the 32 teams. “This new return-to-play statement reinforces our commitment to advancing player safety. Along with improved equipment, better education, and rules changes designed to reduce impacts to the head, it will make our game safer for the men who play it, and set an important example for players at all levels of play.”
The official NFL statement provides as follows: “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 asymptomatic, 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. 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.”
Under the new rules, players should be prevented from playing if the demonstrate any of the following symptoms: (1) loss of consciousness; (2) confusion as evidenced by disorientation to person, time or place, inability to respond appropriately to questions, or inability to remember assignments or plays; (3) 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; (4) abnormal neurological examination, such as abnormal pupillary response, persistent dizziness or vertigo, or abnormal balance on sideline testing; (5) new and persistent headache, particularly if accompanied by photosensitivity, nausea, vomiting or dizziness; or (6) any other persistent signs or symptoms of concussion.
The move represents the latest development in a stunning series of measures aimed at dramatically changing the culture when it comes to concussions. As the controversy involving Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and receiver Hines Ward demonstrates, it won’t be easy. Still, the shock-and-awe-style approach from the league office has persuaded most folks in and around the league to realize that times have changed.
So the next time Congress holds a hearing regarding a matter pertaining to private industry that seemingly is unrelated to the “more important things” our federal servants should be doing, keep in mind the fact that the House Judiciary Committee has done more to address the problem of head injuries in football than anything that anyone previously has done about the issue, combined.