The popular tablet device that has been rewiring brains throughout the country could soon be used to identify whether NFL players have suffered injuries to theirs.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently told Peter King of SI.com that iPads could soon be used to assist in the diagnosis of concussions.
Regarding the league’s position on concussions, Goodell focused on the top two priorities. “The first thing to do is prevent it,” Goodell said. “That goes to rules, equipment. The second is our sideline assessment tools. We have made changes to that. There are some new technologies that make this very soon in the future where on a tablet, you can actually take a test on the sideline to determine [the concussion].”
The league also will expand the use of technology when it comes to spotting whether a player needs to take the iPad test.
“We have spotters, as you know, our ATC [athletic trainers] spotters program, which we implemented late in the season to sort of identify hits that would require an evaluation,” Goodell said. “That will be expanded and fully in place this season. . . . They will have access to all the video and if they see a hit that involves a significant blow to the head or if a player demonstrates any kind of dizziness or potential slowness to get up, they call down to the sideline and make sure the medical professional has that number and they can go make an evaluation. . . .
“Now we have the technology to send the play down to the field, so that if a medical personnel wants to look at that, they can look at the play and that has been very helpful in the playoffs. It’s almost like the instant replay setup. You’ll see the equipment down behind the bench area. The ATC spotter can actually, just like we do with instant replay, send a play down if the trainer or the doctor wants to see a play. They can look at the play and see what they call the mechanisms of injury. That’s the term that’s used. Through the mechanism of injury, you can determine, ‘OK, I need to look at that.’ It’s a tremendous tool for the doctors.”
It sounds like a great plan. Still, Goodell’s comments regarding the expansion of the spotters program were prefaced by an observation that remains troubling, because it’s so unrealistic. “The player has to self-report and has to tell professionals,” Goodell.
That’s not practical because that’s not how players think. And so it comes off not as a viable plan for diagnosing concussions but as a talking point crafted by the lawyers who are handling the concussions lawsuits.
The NFL has been forced to use spotters because players don’t self-report. Because they know if they self-report they won’t be allowed to play.
When it comes to whether a player who has possibly suffered a head injury should be cleared to re-enter the same game, every aspect of the decision should be taken out of the players’ hands. Especially since, if they indeed have a concussion, they’re not fit to make a good decision about whether they can return to play.