Four Corners: A protection plan

After another weekend of possible concussions, what should the NFL do to better protect its players against head trauma?

November 24, 2009

Change the culture
Sam Farmer

Los Angeles Times

The league has to seriously examine every technological advancement in equipment - helmets, padding, mouth guards - but that's already being done. The real change needs to be cultural and come at all levels.

Just as Korey Stringer's death opened eyes about the importance of proper hydration - no more punishing players by denying them water - everyone involved has to treat concussions with the same concern. Kids need to know that "getting your bell rung" isn't the type of injury to shrug off.

It's an uphill battle because a central focus of the game is hitting and not showing weaknesses. That can't be legislated out of football, nor can you expect every player to self-report every injury - especially when they play to put food on the table (and Hummers in the garage).

sfarmer@tribune.com

Enforce the rules
Gary R. Blockus

The Morning Call

Ban helmets and shoulder pads for NFL players. You won't see many safeties leading with their heads to tackle if they're without a helmet.

But seriously, you have to change the culture of hitting, as too many players lead with their heads or target an opponent's head while trying to make big hits.

The only way the NFL can better protect players from concussions is to penalize all hits to the head or hits with the head - and strictly enforce the rule. A hit to the head or with the head should be an automatic penalty.

And if it's not called during the game, it becomes an automatic postgame fine equal to half the player's pay for that game. A hit to the head may cost the offender $200,000, but it has the potential to cost the concussed player for the rest of his life.

gblockus@tribune.com

Acknowledge the danger
Ken Murray

Baltimore Sun

It is impossible to prevent concussions in the violent world of the NFL. Better helmets didn't do it. A ban on leading with the helmet didn't do it. A rule that says all chin straps must be buckled didn't do it.

The NFL has made incremental improvements. If it insists that an independent neurologist be used in all concussion cases, it would prevent some abuse. But the player is as guilty of putting himself in harm's way as the flawed NFL system.

Here's what would really help: If the league's concussion committee would acknowledge what the rest of the medical world already knows, it would be a huge step forward. Better yet, the league should get a panel of neurologists from outside the league to formulate all strategies. Either that or go to weight-division football.

kmurray@tribune.com

Require the safer helmet
Dan Pompei

Chicago Tribune

I like the approach NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is taking regarding dealing with concussions.

NFL teams, as well as players, need to be protected from their own questionable decisions.

Teams, and the physicians who work for them, should not be the only ones deciding whether a player is recovered sufficiently from a concussion. They have a vested interest in determining the player is fine.

So Goodell wants to have players who suffer a concussion get clearance from an independent neurologist.

And too many players wear comfortable or stylish helmets when the state-of-the-art equipment is believed to be safer.

Goodell wants to encourage players to wear the new helmets - perhaps he should require them to do so.

dpompei@tribune.com

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