NFL HEALTH AND SAFETY UPDATE
Cruz shares perspective on head injuries
“I definitely think (head injuries) need to be looked at seriously. It’s obviously hard to manage because of the high volume of hits in the NFL. But it’s something they’re working on. Taking away certain hits to the head by the defensive players on the offensive players is a great step. I think that will help the guys acclimated to hitting in different areas. I think it all starts (in youth leagues) and goes all the way up.” — New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz in a recent Time Magazine interview.
Thursday Night Football: Keeping an eye on player safety
After an intriguing trio of Thanksgiving Day games, the NFL’s Thursday Night Football schedule continues this week when the Atlanta Falcons host the division-rival New Orleans Saints on NFL Network.
While the NFL instituted a new wrinkle this year with an expanded 13-game Thursday night schedule on NFL Network — bringing the 2012 season total to 16 Thursday games — football on Thursdays dates back to the earliest days of the NFL.
From the six Thanksgiving Day games in 1920 to the current scheduling format which ensures that all 32 clubs will play on one Thursday following a Sunday game, Thursday football is an evolving NFL tradition — but not a new one. More than 300 NFL games have been played on Thursdays all-time, including 191 since 1970.
Fan reaction to the Thursday games this season has been enthusiastic, with all Thursday games sold out and broadcast locally in the home team markets. The competition on the field has been intriguing. Eight of the 13 Thursday games played to date have been within one score in the fourth quarter, punctuated by outstanding individual performances.
As with any change to the playing schedule or rules, the NFL continues to study the effects on the health and safety of its players, especially the number of injuries that occur on Thursday nights.
The thinking among some is that playing on a short week, i.e. a Sunday game followed by a Thursday game, results in an increased rate of injury. Some players take a different view, reacting positively to the lack of contact during the abbreviated practice week in preparation for a Thursday game, followed by the extended “mini bye week” after.
The NFL Injury Surveillance System is studying the injury question in detail. For Thursday games played from 2009-2011, data does not suggest that Thursday games are associated with different injury rates compared to games played on other days. There does not appear to be an obvious trend in differing injury rates based on the time interval between games.
The injury rates for Thursday games will be the subject of continuing study and evaluation in the weeks and months ahead, with the data gathered from the full 2012 Thursday schedule providing additional information with which to study the important question of how changes to the schedule impact player health and safety.
Chairman of NFL Owners Committee on Health and Safety speaks on concussion protocol
In an interview with CSN Bay Area, San Francisco 49ers Co-Chairman DR. John York said that he is “perfectly comfortable” with the concussion protocol and the steps required to return quarterback Alex Smith to play. Smith was cleared to play following a concussion sustained on November 11.
Dr. York, who serves as Chairman of the NFL Owners Committee on Health and Safety, indicated that “The 49ers handled it according to the (NFL) protocol. That’s what we’re supposed to do, and that’s what the other 31 teams are supposed to do. So I’m perfectly comfortable with how we handled it.”
Indicating that there is always room for improvement, Dr. York noted the many ways that health and safety remains a priority during each NFL game. “We’ve seen things where we thought we had things covered, and we do other things, such as putting the AT (athletic trainers) spotter in the video booth,” he said. “And when things need to be changed or improved, we’ll do that. But it won’t come from me, it’ll come from the physicians.”
For more, read Dr. York’s interview.
Screenings for retired players yield results
Retired players took advantage of free cardiovascular and prostate screenings provided by the NFL Player Care Foundation earlier this month in Charlotte, NC, at Carolina HealthCare System. More than 30 players, ranging in age from 35-70, took part in the screenings. Another similar event is scheduled later this week in Kansas City, MO at the Carondelet Heart Institute. The screenings are conducted by the NFL PCF in 10 cities annually.
Formed by the NFL, in partnership with the NFL Players Association, Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the NFL Alumni Association, the NFL PCF is an independent organization dedicated to helping retired players improve their quality of life. PCF addresses all aspects of life — medical, emotional, financial, social and community, providing programs and assistance in each area.
The screenings are conducted through partnerships with the Boone Heart Institute, Living Heart Foundation and American Urological Association . Since 2008, more than 1,200 retired players have been screened for prostate cancer and more than 1,300 retired players have taken part in cardiovascular screenings through these programs.
“It’s a huge benefit to have this opportunity and have guys be able to come out to get various things checked like EKG, prostate, blood pressure,” said former player Steve Israel, who took part in the screening. “We need to get more guys coming out.”
The screenings can yield life-saving results. Pro Football Hall of Fame member Mike Haynes discovered his prostate cancer through a PCF screening. Now cancer-free, he is a spokesperson for AUA Foundation’s Know Your Stats Campaign.
Questions, answers on Adderall use
Football blogger Melissa Jacobs recently spoke with sports psychologist Dr. Leah Lagos on Adderall, its effects, and its links to competitive advantage. To read the Q&A, click here.
– NFL media services