The NFL's failing policy on concussions
I can't believe that it's already week five and we are about to begin the second quarter of the 2008-'09 NFL season. Time to take a break for a beer and an ED commercial. We will also take a quick look at the first quarter highlights.
I will try to sum it up quickly. Who cares which brand of beer it is, if your buddy paid for it? If you want to be picky about the free beer...buy it your damn self!
Here's a medical secret for you. Don't fret. Viagra and Cialis both work...so go get'em champ! The first quarter of the NFL season was all about injuries (especially potential neck/spinal cord trauma) and the ever present topic of concussions.
Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Shawne Merriman, Osi Umenyiora, Al Harris, Roy Williams, Willie Parker, Brian Westbrook, Jason Taylor and the list unfortunately goes on. Blown out knees and broken bones are regrettably part of the game...believe me as both an orthopedic surgeon and fan I understand that football is a contact sport and can often be a brutal game. Truly I get it. But potential neck/spinal cord injuries and concussions do NOT have to be a requirement for participation in the NFL.
The league is obviously aware of the problem. The NFL has rules and policies in place to help protect players from potentially devastating and many times preventable injuries. But the league seems not to be willing to properly and vigorously enforce them. As if properly enforcing these standards will in some way damage the integrity of the game.
At the beginning of the 2007-'08 season, the NFL front office announced its new aggressive policy on concussions in a attempt to better protect and treat injured player. How well did it work?
The first rule of concussion prevention/treatment is that when a player is suspected of suffering a concussion his day is over. Don't guess. Don't risk their health. Shut them down. The player is not to return to the contest. Got it?...great, because apparently few league officials and team physicians did.
Rewind to week 2 of the '07-'08 season, John Kitna, starting QB for the Detroit Lions, suffered an obvious concussion was diagnosed properly and taken out of the game. So far so good. The policy was properly enforced. Kitna whom during his career had experienced 2 documented concussions and possibly/probably more undocumented ones, said it was "the worst my head had ever felt' and "barely" knew where he was. Sadly in the fourth quarter of a close game, against NFL policy and acceptable medical standards with his replacement struggling he was permitted to return to the game. Review of the records reveal that John Kitna's concussion never appeared on the official NFL injury report. And no one appears to have been reprimanded for allowing that to occur. It begs to question...Who is responsible?
Needless to say, the most fundamental rules of concussion prevention/treatment are not being consistently followed. Concussions continue to be underreported, under appreciated and most of all under treated.
But hey, it's a tough game right? Ask Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Trent Green, Kevin Everett and Mike Webster. Sorry, not Steeler's great Mike Webster. He died at 50 years young (And multiple concussions have been implicated in his premature death). May God rest his soul.