Analysis: NFL concussion program still wanting

Fitzgerald Cecilio – 4E Sports Reporter

New York, NY, United States (4E Sports) – Despite orders from Congress to overhaul its concussion program, an analysis has found the NFL program wanting, with the league’s efforts to track, manage and even describe serious head injuries are marred with inconsistencies.

According to analysis by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and PBS “Frontline” shows, these inconsistencies make it hard to assess the league’s progress on curbing the concussion issue.

The analysis revealed that NFL officials this season have released conflicting data about head injuries, and medical personnel have sent some injured players back into games, possibly in violation of new league guidelines.

The two media groups based their analysis on interviews with concussion experts inside and outside of the NFL and an examination of weekly injury reports over the past four years,

The report also discovered that the league has released two different sets of statistics this year about the number of concussions that occurred in 2010 and 2011, making it impossible to evaluate the league’s claims that brain injuries decreased significantly during that period.

Also, teams use different and imprecise terms to describe concussions on injury reports, obscuring the prevalence and severity of head injuries from week to week.

In some instances this season, team medical personnel have sent players back into games despite apparent symptoms listed under league guidelines for declaring a player “No Go,” or unable to return.

“I’m gonna be blunt here: We’re so primitive,” said Dr. David Dodick, a neurologist who examines some NFL players as director of the concussion program at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Twenty years from now, we’ll look back at ourselves and laugh.”

Dodick was told by an NFL player that “concussion is a four-letter word in the locker room right now.”

After congressional hearings in 2009, the NFL disbanded its Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, which had denied the link between football and chronic brain damage, and initiated a series of measures, including mandatory guidelines for removing injured players from games.

In February, the NFL announced a 13 percent decline in concussions from the previous year, attributing the drop from 218 concussions in 2010 to 190 in 2011 to increased awareness and the decision to move kickoffs from the 30- to the 35-yard line.

However, one of the league’s brain-injury experts provided a different set of statistics, showing a dramatically higher number of concussions than in the February report, with only a nominal decrease between 2010 and 2011.

Dr. Hunt Batjer, co-chair of the NFL’s Head, Neck & Spine Committee, said there was a gap of 50 reported concussions in 2010 and 73 in 2011.

He then referred the discrepancies to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, who said that first set of statistics released by the league did not include concussions that occurred in the postseason or practice.

Batjer later contradicted Aiello’s statement, saying almost all the concussions occurred during games and not in practice.

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