Coinciding with this week’s NFL season kickoff, the professional football league’s players union is providing detailed concussion education and training in a new informational video.
The educational video, created in collaboration with the American Academy of Neurology, was distributed to all players and relays to them essential facts about brain injury and how to recognize it.
It also details new National Football League concussion protocols mandated for their health and safety, including the steps involved in the sideline concussion assessment and how to determine if and when a player can safely return to the field.
“Concussion is really serious stuff. This is your brain; this is your mind; this is you. Don’t risk you,” said Dr. Thom Mayer, the NFL Players Association’s medical director.
Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, MD, an advisor to the NFLPA, said the league and player’s association worked together to create “evidence-based protocols to take you through a process that ensures you are safe to return to play.”
He added: “Whenever a concussion is suspected, the player is required to be immediately removed from play and evaluated as soon as possible. The people who are involved with the medical assessment of concussion in the NFL are the unaffiliated neuro-trauma consultant and the team physician. The unaffiliated neuro-trauma consultant is an independent physician who is there on the players’ behalf,” said Kutcher.
Players are also being encouraged to speak up if they suspect a concussion.
“Simply going to the athletic trainer or the team physician, letting them know ‘Hey, I got ringing in my ears after that hit,’ or ‘I’m seeing double a little bit, I think I need to be checked out,’” said Mayer.
After decades of allowing violent on-field play, NFL has taken steps in recent years to minimize head injuries among players. Those efforts were prompted by several highly publicized cases of players who say they suffered long-term problems after sustaining concussions during their NFL careers.
The NFL has outlawed certain on-field practices that were once common to the game and instituted new sideline protocols for dealing with potentially serious head injuries.
For instance, players are barred from helmet-to-helmet hits and from targeting the head of a defenseless player — such as a receiver, quarterback, or kicker — who may not see a hit coming. Those who have violated the rules have been penalized and fined.
In addition, the league has instituted new requirements for evaluating players who have sustained hits to the head. In years past, most players were allowed to continue playing after such a blow, as long as they did not lose consciousness.
But today, players with suspected concussions must be evaluated, according to new protocols established by the NFL, by a team's medical staff and an independent medical consultant before being allowed back into the game.
Up to 80 percent of mild concussions are not readily or easily diagnosed, experts say.
Research suggests repetitive, "sub-concussive" hits — often sustained during practice, as well as on game day — can have long-term adverse consequences and may raise the risk for dementia, depression, cognitive problems, violent behavior, and the neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
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