Here’s what’s news around health and safety in football today:
* NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith renewed his call for independent concussion experts on the sidelines at all NFL games. Citing sources, ESPN.com reported that in light of the rash of head injuries to star quarterbacks last weekend.
NFLPA sources said the union wants the league to accept responsibility for creating a disciplined, prompt and safe environment for players who are injured during the course of a game. They said the union wants concussion specialists, paid not by the teams but by the league, to assume the duties of caring for players, in accordance with normal employer workplace oversight.
* However, USA Today reported the concerns of the NFL that doing so would make it make it tougher to diagnose concussions.
“Independent experts on sidelines would make (the) situation worse, unless they had a baseline exam on each player,” Richard Ellenbogen, co-chair of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee, wrote in an e-mail to USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday night. “No one knows the players as well as the athletic trainers, period. Having said that, some teams already have neurosurgeons on the sidelines. Having a doc show up just for a game takes away from the all-important baseline exam and continuity of care. It would be like getting operated upon by a surgeon who did not see you pre-operatively. Is that safer than having someone who saw you beforehand? The baseline is all important in making an assessment if a player is OK after a hit.”
* USA Today’s Jarrett Bell wrote that the NFL needs to be smarter in dealing with concussions on the sidelines and tighten the guidelines.
If the guidelines are such that they include enough gray area that allows injured quarterbacks (or defensive backs, for that matter) to remain in the game until there is a delayed diagnosis, the protocol needs to be tightened up, ASAP. From the instant (Alex) Smith and (Jay) Cutler were hit, observers at the games tweeted concerns. Yet the quarterbacks gutted it out. Smith stayed in for 12 more plays, even going 5-for-5 with a touchdown pass, before getting to the sideline and complaining of blurred vision. Cutler finished the half before being examined for a concussion in the locker room.
* Associated Press columnist Jim Litke asked if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is being honest about concussions.
The problem with too many of those solutions is that while they’ve had a beneficial effect, the responsibility remained largely with the player. Job security is so tenuous that plenty of them still refuse to report symptoms and a few even let on later that they sabotaged their initial baseline test, setting the bar low enough to give them some leeway when tested in the midst of a game after a head-rattling hit. And even when procedures are followed to the letter, there are no guarantees. … Small wonder the NFL Players Association made noise Monday about asking the NFL to put independent concussion specialists, paid for by the league instead of the teams, to determine whether players should be pulled from games.
* A Bleacher Report columnist wrote that the concussion suffered last Sunday by Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler will doom the Bears’ season. CBS Sports wrote that Cutler’s history of concussions – including three at Vanderbilt — compounds his latest injury.
* Head injuries are also a hot topic in Canada. After Calgary Stampeders quarterback Ben Tate suffered a head injury last weekend, the Toronto Star’s Raju Muhdar said that the CFL’s entire concussion policy needs to be overhauled.
* WBBM-TV in Chicago wrote about a groundswell of parents in the area who are pushing to ban youth tackle football.
* KCET-TV in Los Angeles reported on the injury risks of youth football in Southern California.
* The Orlando Sentinel wrote about a former star high school quarterback, who still suffers from concussion symptoms six years after quitting the game.