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Examiner
  • Football's concussion crisis

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  • The NFL has attempted to decrease risk for concussion to players through education, rules changes and protocols for safe return to play. There are many opinions about the effects these changes will have on the game. One thing is certain, concussion has the attention of every player, coach and administrator in the League.
    The NFL and concussions, what do you know? T or F?
    1. Running backs sustain more concussions than any other position.
    2. Wide receivers sustain more concussions than quarterbacks.
    3. Linebackers sustain more concussions than other defensive players.
    The kickoff is the most dangerous play in football, historically accounting for more concussions than any other single play. In 2010 the NFL implemented a rule that moved kickoffs from the 30 yard line to the 35. These 5 yards may not seem like much but this rule alone decreased the number of concussions from 35 in 2010 to 20 in 2011.
    New for 2013 is a rule which penalizes a ball carrier or defensive player for using the crown of the helmet for impact. Running backs are concerned that their ability to protect the ball is diminished by this rule. Defensive players have expressed concern because, well, they don’t like any rule that will penalize how they tackle. Infractions will cost the offenders 15 yards from the spot of the foul. Ouch.
    What position is most vulnerable to concussion? If you guessed wide receiver you’d be right. Wide receivers and cornerbacks (get the connection?) are the top 2 positions for number of concussions in the NFL. For interesting graphics and information about position-specific data, see PBS’ Frontline at www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/concussion-watch/
    Retired NFL players and the NFL have come to an agreement that will provide the players with money and access to medical care to evaluate for effects of brain trauma caused from concussions. These effects may include depression and early-onset dementia. Retired players filed a lawsuit against the NFL citing negligence in the management of their concussions.
    Riddell is the official helmet provider of the NFL, although players can select a different brand. Riddell was named as a co-defendant with the NFL in the concussion lawsuit. The NFL players contended that Riddell failed to warn them that their helmets would not protect against concussion. Although Riddell knew in 2000 that its Revolution helmet did not protect against concussion, it promoted it as such. Riddell recently lost a suit brought against it by the family of a high school football player in Colorado who suffered catastrophic brain injury while wearing a Riddell helmet. Buyer beware. Helmets are designed to protect against catastrophic brain injury and skull fracture. Not one helmet, not one, can protect against concussion.
    PBS’ acclaimed Frontline series will air League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis Oct. 8, in a two-part series. ESPN, a collaborator on the project has pulled out of its partnership and many suspect that the NFL pressured the sports broadcasting giant to do so. We will see what this narrative documentary reveals. Maybe something we didn’t know. Maybe not. What we do know is that the NFL gets very nervous when the bright camera lights are shifted from the players on the field to their locker rooms, homes and doctor’s offices.
    Page 2 of 2 - Don’t touch that dial. More to come.
    Answers: 1. F; 2. T; 3. F.
    Dr. Lori Boyajian-O’Neill can be contacted at lori.boyajian-oneill@hcahealthcare.com.

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