May 26, 2024

NFL concussion rules could change football culture

NFL releases new concussion regulations

Are retired NFL players suffering from dementia?After years of
allowing players to return to the field after concussions, the US
National Football League announced recently that it would impose
strict rules on concussion management. The new rules require players
with significant signs of concussion to leave a game or practice for
the whole day. The New York Times says that former professional
football players are said to be suffering from
dementia and other memory-related diseases at several times the rate
in the national population. However, players
will often hide their symptoms because they want to continue playing.
Concussion is quite easy to hide, because there may be few externally
recognisable symptoms. The league formerly
allowed players to return after symptoms had subsided. However, the
reappearance of symptoms hours or days later shows that players often
do not have time to properly heal from the initial blow.

Medical experts
have called for a change
of culture
. Young players are particularly at risk of injury as
governing bodies at high school and college levels do not have
concussion management rules. The NFL’s acceptance of responsibility
for player’s health and safety could change players’ mentality in
high school and college competitions.

Bioethicists have waded into the debate and have compared the situation of serious athletes to desperate patients participating in a clinical trial. Both will agree to almost anything to get what they want. Furthermore, there is ample scope for conflict of interest. Gay
Culverhouse, a former president of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, told a Congressional committe in October: “ the team doctor is
hired by the coach and paid by the front office. This team doctor is
not an advocate for the players. That doctor’s role is to get those
players back on the field…If a player chooses independent medical
counsel he is considered not a ‘team player.’ He becomes a pariah.”

John Papas, a
football coach at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in
Cambridge, Mass., said that announcers’ and NFL players’
statements on the issue will not go unnoticed by high school and
college players. “High-school-age
players look up to the NFL players — they all want to be tough
guys,” Papas said last week. “The message the NFL is sending now
is the right message: If you think you suffered a concussion, there’s
no way you’re going to get better without resting.” ~ New
York Times Dec 2, Dec
; Bioethics Forum, Nov 5

Jared Yee
informed consent
patient care