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NFL to Train Referees to Identify Brain Injuries

Since it is football season, much attention has recently been paid to sports head injuries, particularly those that affect younger football players and similar athletes in contact sports. Of course the problem extends well beyond child and high school players. In fact, with the increased size and physicality of the games among older players, the potential harm caused by head trauma increases for players in college and professional leagues. It remains just as important at these advanced stages for those involved in the games to do everything in their power to keep players safe.

Fortunately, even at the highest levels steps are being taken to ensure that those watching the athletes are aware of the risks of brain injuries. For example, the Washington Post reported yesterday on new efforts by the administrators at the National Football League (NFL) to educate officials to better notice concussion-related symptoms. As it often the case with these types of changes, the effort was spurred by a scary incident involving a professional player in a game earlier this season.

In late October, a San Diego Chargers lineman suffered a strong hit and concussion when he collided with a linebacker late in a game. The impact and injury sent the lineman staggering around the field. However, no one seemingly noticed his condition and he staggered back to the huddle without leaving the game. Of course concussions require proper rest and rehabilitation. It remains incredibly risky for players who have suffered concussions to keep playing a game with physical contact. Serious short-term and long-term harm often results. After the game, the Chargers player in this case collapsed on the plane ride home. He also suffered a seizure before he was stabilized.

Our Illinois brain injury attorneys know that frequently these sports-related injuries could be prevented if those involved in the game take steps to ensure proper rest for those who have suffered concussions. In this NFL case, an official saw the behavior of the player after the concussion, but the NFL does not yet have any plans in place to train officials to recognize the possible harm and take action. That may now change.

NFL officials are now working to improve the monitoring system to prevent another dangerous situation from occurring. Part of that effort will involve better training of officials to recognize the symptoms of concussion. They referees will then be able to take action to protect the player from potential harm. NFL teams all have physicians on the sidelines who are supposed to catch these situations. However, the physicians’ location on the sidelines often make it difficult for them to see everything that goes on in the game. If a player suffers a serious hit leading to significant head injury, but returns to the huddle, the doctor may never know. That is exactly why more involved individual, like officials, need to be properly trained to spot these issues. This is a principle that should be followed at all levels, from the professionals down to games involving the youngest players. Proper training does not require too much time or resources, but it could end up saving a life.

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