Concussions on the field and treatment off the field; professional athletes at risk

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and concussion “posters in the locker room, stricter guidelines on the field, investments in research — are all good things. But if the NFL wants to be taken seriously on the issue of treating concussions, it’s got to do more.

Concussions happen in football, there’s no getting around that. The problem was, both Kolb and Bradley were cleared to return to the game, exposing them to the possibility of devastating consequences had they suffered another one. Bradley, whose sideways-leaning shuffle was shown in TV replays and on the stadium video board, was sidelined for only four minutes — real time, not game time — whereas the standard concussion test takes five minutes. He was in for a few plays when he came back, although he sat out the final defensive series of the half, then the rest of the game. He has yet to return to practice.

Kolb reentered the game before halftime too, although trainers had substantially more time to check him. The Eagles say he seemed OK, but by halftime he was showing signs of a concussion, including blurred vision and an inability to remember certain plays. Like Bradley, he was benched for the second half and has not practiced this week.

The NFL’s new standard for dealing with concussions indicate that players are supposed to be completely free of symptoms before being cleared to return to a game or practice — and it cannot happen on the same day the player was concussed. Clearly, neither Kolb nor Bradley was symptom-free.

Some suggest the NFL should take a page from boxing’s book and assign a neutral physician — like a fight doctor — to monitor games and make the decisions for both teams about which players should be allowed to return. That would take pressure off team doctors. Interesting as that solution might be, it assumes a team doctor is incapable of making a reliable diagnosis. That’s a big assumption. Also, with injuries as difficult to detect as concussions, it’s an advantage to have a doctor who is around the players all the time and can recognize when one is acting out of the ordinary.

Under the new rules, a concussed player must be cleared by an independent neurologist to come back. That player can also seek a second opinion — at the team’s expense — from a doctor of his choosing.

But teams need to do even more, perhaps bulking up their medical staffs to better cope with a situation such as the one that happened in Philadelphia. There are league employees in the press box who monitor officials, and others who look for uniform violations. Maybe someone should monitor how injuries are handled. Someone needs to stand up for the players. Especially when those players can barely stand.”

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