Spotting concussions could create a competitive disadvantage


It’s easy to wag a finger at the NFL for not requiring teams to do a better job of yanking players who may have suffered concussions from games.  But there’s a potentially significant consequence to erring on the side of safety.

What if the player doesn’t have a concussion?

In that case, a key player (like the starting quarterback) could be unavailable during key stretches of a game, while he’s screened for a concussion that he ultimately is deemed to not have.

And with the determination of who may or may not have a concussion hinging on subjective observations, the question of whether a quarterback is removed from the game to be checked for a concussion could prompt debates and suspicions that the player is being flagged for a concussion test for reasons unrelated to protecting him from harm.

So what should the NFL do?  The answer could come from an objective method for determining whether a player has absorbed the kind of blow to the head that could result in a concussion, like the HIT system developed by North Carolina professor and NFL concussion consultant Kevin Guskiewicz.

Regardless, the NFL’s current procedures aren’t removing players with concussions from games.  To ensure that all players who may have concussions are protected from suffering a second one, some who may not have concussions will have to be taken out of games to be checked.

There’s no easy solution to this problem.  But if/when a player suffers a concussion, isn’t removed from the game, suffers another concussion, and has a serious injury as a result of suffering two concussions, there could be an overreaction.

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16 responses to “Spotting concussions could create a competitive disadvantage

  1. They could implement some form of this by making a rule that any player that is down on the field as a result of a shot to the head should be checked for a concussion.

    If I recall correctly, Cutler was down for a little after getting hit in last night’s game. This would have prevented him from playing out the rest of the 2nd quarter with a concussion.

  2. shockbox is the answer it goes inside the helmet and links to android software via Bluetooth. It can sort by name and number and send immediate notifications when certain gforces are reached during a hit. We use them on the team I coach and they work well and at $140 each it’s worth it to save a brain or at least to help

  3. May as well give penalties and fines for all hits resulting in concussions… the guy who misses time shouldn’t be the only person to suffer … right…… ‘merica! Why protect just the quarterback?

    Goodbye football!

  4. Hard to tell with Cutler. He gets out of bed in the morning looking like he was hit by a truck while stumbling home from the bar, and spent the night unconscious, in a muddy water filled ditch beside the road.

  5. I agree with edhemp about the shockbox (assuming it is fairly reliable) however there is NO WAY the NFLPA will sign off on it. I think the NFL should at least try to mandate it but I see the players wanting a study or some other delaying tactic like with HGH testing. The bottom line is they will be afraid that the data can be collected and used against them for contract negotiations, removing them from games (as intended), etc. If the NFL is serious about concussion safety then I see no reason to ignore this technology.

  6. Also, the Bears have released a statement saying that having Jay Cutler as a QB causes them to have a competitive disadvantage.

  7. I can see where this is going. Every NFL helmet will have a little red light on top that flashes when a player get’s hit to hard. LOL

    So players will be cringing away from hits so they don’t have to leave the game, and other players will be literally out to “light up” others to send them to the sideline.

    A big video game.


  8. edhemp says: Nov 12, 2012 8:48 PM



    I have to say that the shockbox system looks amazing. I wonder if the NFL ever thought about trying such a system out during the pre-season to gather some data on how hard some of those hits really are.

    My fear is that the reality of the situation is such that the average NFL player who is involved with major hits on a regular basis, just about everybody on Defense and RB’s and Receivers on Offense, suffers hits sufficient during a game to turn their brains to jello.

    Goodell tried to kill the Saints, but concussions are going to kill the NFL.

    You can’t take the violent hits out of the game and a large number of players are suffering lifelong injuries in every game.

  9. I got a solution, let the players sign a waiver if they want to play after they get one. I will bet, unless in the most severe cases 100% of the players want to keep playing. The reason there is so much attention for the NFL is because the league is about to be brought down by law suits. Hell I play hockey in a stupid old guy league I am have got a few and kept playing. I could not imagine playing at that level and not being able to finish the game, because what amounts to is the league protecting them from a future law suit. And for all of the politically correct people out there that thinks it is about player safety ( which I will add is a very good benefit of this) why don’t you move over to boxing, where of course guys beat themselves silly in the head all night, with hardly an outcry for their protection or protection.

  10. There are no completely objective tests for concussions.

    All tests require a suitably trained doctor.

    That should give you a clue as to whether human judgement is required.

  11. The problem is that medicine is not an exact science, there is inherent subjectivity to its practice and the quality of experience. These objective systems like “shockbox” should help alert doctors to the possibility of a concussion, but you’ll still get false positives/negatives resulting from it. One source that this will come from is tuning and player-to-player variability. I’m sure two different players can take the same hit and one will get a concussion while another will march on, regardless of the g-force or whatever metric indicates concussion positive/negative. Thus, there needs to be an improvement, such as suggested above, in diagnostic tools, but the doctor’s experience, among other traits, is irreplaceable. It’s these traits of doctors that will determine the false positives/negatives and the correct diagnoses.

    Regardless, concussion diagnosis procedures need to be improved for the players and the longevity of their sports (NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, …). I think of football players like J. Best and M. Vick, various hockey players like Crosby, etc.

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