SBD/Issue 51/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NFL Requiring Teams To Use Independent Doctors For Head Injuries

Teams Told To Submit Names Of Independent
Doctors For League Approval
NFL team doctors have been told that each team "will now be required to supplement their medical staffs with an 'independent neurologist or neurosurgeon' to specifically help with concussions," according to Jay Glazer of FOX SPORTS. Teams have been told to "immediately find 'independent' doctors and send names to the league for approval." The NFL will then work with NFLPA medical personnel "to determine that each doctor is in fact an expert in this field as well as impartial to the team they are handling." Part of the policy will include the stipulation that players "cannot return to practice or games until he is cleared by the independent neurologist in addition to his team doctor." The league is hoping the new policy, which is expected to be in place "in a matter of a couple of weeks, ... will help in the fight to protect players" from head trauma and concussions (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/22). Glazer also reported the U.S. Department of Defense has “reached out” to the NFL on the concussion issue, and the medical staffs of both the government and the NFL “have been trading information” (“Fox NFL Sunday,” Fox, 11/22). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell did not believe there was anything wrong with the league’s previous concussion plan, but he said, “As we learn more and more, we want to give our players the best medical advice, and I think this is a chance for us to expand that and to bring more people into the circle to make sure we’re making the best decisions for our players in the long term." Players did not specifically ask for these changes, but Goodell said they have “always talked about concussions.” Goodell: “One thing that I’ve stressed to them is help us identify the players when they do have some type of a head injury … so we can get the proper medical care to them” (“Football Night In America,” NBC, 11/22).

NEW POLICY A RESULT OF DC PRESSURE? In N.Y., Alan Schwarz reports the NFL appears to have "begun to embrace the value of outside opinion ... after an embarrassing hearing on the issue before the House Judiciary Committee last month in which the league was compared to the tobacco industry." Texans G and player rep Chester Pitts said, "I don't want to call it forced, but it's been strongly urged because of the awareness of the issue these days. When you have Congress talking about the antitrust exemption and them calling them the tobacco industry, that's pretty big. But it's a good thing it's transpiring." NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir of External Affairs George Atallah in an e-mail said that the union had been "speaking with NFL officials for two weeks about implementing some sort of independent scrutiny for players who receive concussions -- perhaps including an outside doctor present at every game" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/23).

PLAYERS SHOULD BE MADE TO SIT OUT: CBS' Boomer Esiason suggested the NFL implement a policy in which players sit out for four games after a first concussion in a season and are placed on the injured reserve list after a second concussion in the same season. Esiason: “If we’re all worried about concussions and the long-term effects, we have to start taking issues into our own hands” (“The NFL Today,” CBS, 11/22).

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