Blog Entry

The Daily Shoutout: Brain docs at every game?

Posted on: December 15, 2011 9:45 am
Edited on: December 15, 2011 9:57 am
OPENING HIT: The talk across football now is concussions and within all of that is the idea of the NFL putting neurologists on every sideline for every game. It's a brilliant idea but is it actually feasible?

It probably is but would still be a huge logistical and philosophical undertaking. Let's take opening weekend as an example.

There were 16 games opening weekend (there would obviously be less as byes worked into the schedule as the season progressed). You could have one neurologist per stadium. Or if the league really wanted to cover all of its players they could have one on each sideline.

There are thousands of brain docs so the numbers would be easy to do. They might cost $25,000 a year plus administrative and travel expenses, an expert said, or possibly more -- a small amount for a $9 billion league.

Those are the easy parts. The biggest problem will be incorporating a neurologist's philosophy with that of a professional football team. If the league does this football will be all in. I mean, all in. It would drastically change the sport.

That's because a sideline brain specialist wouldn't care about politcs or if a team was in a playoff push. They would be truly indepedent and remove suspected cases from the game. Period. Then, in working with another indepedent specialist, could keep players out for days or weeks.

These doctors, in many ways, would instantly become some of the most powerful people in football. They could alter seasons, careers -- everything. And they wouldn't give a damn what fans or players think of them. They would approach it with a cold reality with only player safety in mind.

Of course, that would be a great thing. It would keep players safer but I think one reason the league and union have been moving on that front cautiously is because they know the potential outcome. Independent specialists could drastically alter the sport.

Having them is the right thing to do but any assumption it would be easy is a wrong one.
Category: NFL
Tags: concussions, NFL

Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: December 15, 2011 8:09 pm

The Daily Shoutout: Brain docs at every game?

Since it'll take time to judge a player on the sideline, won't the other team want to hit the opposition harder to get a key player out of the game for the time it takes to test?  The only real penalty will be to keep the player causing the potential concussion out of the game until the player being tested is released. Now the real penalty. If it is determined that there is a concussion, the offending player can not return to the game but that the offending team must play a player short. That will reduce the want to put players on the sidelines just to get them out of the game for the period of time it takes to run a concussion test. If the ultimate diagnosis shows concussion then both teams not just the team losing the player to concussion needs to be penalized. No longer an advantage to the team taking the cheap shot. We do not need headhunters in the NFL. If a team has to play a man short, 11 vs 10, there will be some serious thinking by each player. No more BOOM - better tackling rather than making SportsCenter for a cheap shot tackle.

Since: Feb 22, 2008
Posted on: December 15, 2011 11:44 am

The Daily Shoutout: Brain docs at every game?

I think you’re missing a rather big something here, Mike. Your conclusion is right on, but the reasoning is only half there.

How do you assume that these doctors will be able to look at things from a cold and scientific level?

You said it yourself, it’s a $9 BILLION league, and the decisions these doctors make can alter games, seasons and even careers. With all that at in limbo, corruption is major concern. After all, nobody is looking over these neurologists shoulders out there. Those game-changing, season-altering and possible career-destroying decisions will be made by a committee of one man with a pen light. At least referees can be easily judged in the court of public opinion. It’s not perfect, but there’s an obvious level of accountability there.

And, with all that at stake, it’s easily conceivable that teams and players will do their very best to keep their best 22 on the field. There’s historical precedence for that, even. Players have been concealing concussions for decades to stay on the field. I’m not suggesting they would send a player back out there if the guy was a stumbling zombie, but a lot of these decisions will be subjective at best.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

It’s easy to imagine a specially designated locker somewhere with a duffle bag full of cash. It’s easy to imagine a player saying “I’m good, doc. I’m just a little dizzy because I left my inhaler in locker 17, in the trainers’ room. Cough, Cough. You know what I’m saying.”

And I’m not even going to get into my whole take on how none of these doctors will be prepared for the spotlight they will receive, or the pressure of an NFL sideline. They no pressure in their field, to be sure, but none of these guys wants to be the Steve Bartman of football.

And, I’ll even skip the rant about how some people won’t be happy until the NFL is dismantled and replaced by flag football. (Laugh if you want, but we’re going down that road.)
Here’s what I’ll say …

Solve the problem with technology, not more checks and balances. Not with more penalties and rules. Not with more people milling around on the sideline trying to get on camera.

Better helmets. Better, quicker tests.

It’ll be more expensive, but it’s the better solution.

Since: Mar 5, 2009
Posted on: December 15, 2011 11:08 am

The Daily Shoutout: Brain docs at every game?

Brain specialist would be useless at a Steelers game.

Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: December 15, 2011 10:13 am

The Daily Shoutout: Brain docs at every game?

I am pretty sure the NFL could find a bit of money out of all those millions to pay a neurologist at every game.  They are going to have to do something soon.  The game has become too violent, and the equipment just seems to make it worse.  If they can't make safer equipment, maybe they should go to more of an Austrailian Rules look, with no pads and no helmets.  There might be more abrasions, but someone without a helmet or pads would have to think twice before "teeing off" on someone.  
Helmets and pads are great at protecting the outside of the body, but they don't protect the brain from impact with the inside of the skull.  Consequently, players develop a false sense of security when using their bodies as weapons.  With today's level of weight training and conditioning, there is just too much force coming into play during almost every impact.  

Players have become too good for their own good.   Something must be done soon, on the high school, college, and professional levels.  The more we find out about CTE and sub-concussions, the worse it looks for football players.  It's time for some serious discussion about changing the game to make it more safe for the participants.

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