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ARTICLE: Whistle coaches? New policy on concussions?

Discussion in 'NFL Zone' started by Angus, Jun 3, 2007.

  1. Angus

    Angus Active Member

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    Proposal may alter NFL's policy for head injuries

    By Jason Lieser
    Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, June 03, 2007

    DAVIE — NFL players, more and more concerned about concussions and their long-term effects, might have a new way to protect themselves.

    They could blow the whistle on their coaches.

    An NFL committee has recommended an anonymous system for players and team physicians to inform the league if they feel a coach is pressing for premature medical clearance of players who have suffered head injuries.

    "Without a doubt, it happens in this league," Dolphins defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday, a nine-year veteran, said of the pressure to play when hurt, even with a head injury.

    "First you see your peers joking you ... then you get the pressure from your coach. 'Can you go?' That's all they want to know. Everybody in the building wants to know.

    "There's a saying that you can't make the club in the tub. You know that how you make your mark, or your money, is by being on that field making plays."

    The whistle-blower system is one step being considered by the league in response to growing concern by players and medical experts regarding head injuries.

    Just last week, research on more than 2,500 former NFL players by the University of North Carolina's Center for the Study of Retired Athletes showed this: Players who had at least three concussions had triple the risk of clinical depression compared with those who had no concussions.

    "We think it's interesting. But it does not prove anything," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told the Associated Press. "And we want to know more. And that's why we are spending close to $2 million on a study of concussions on our retired players."

    The new recommendations, announced May 22, would require pre-season tests of every player to determine cognitive ability, memory and reaction time. That would give team physicians a baseline to compare results of players who suffer a concussion. Twenty-seven of the 32 NFL teams already have been conducting these tests, the Dolphins since 2000.

    NFL spokesman Steve Alic said the recommendations weren't spurred by a single incident but are "part of the natural evolution of our policies."

    The new policy also suggests a very simple precaution: making sure players wear their helmets properly.

    Dolphins tight end Justin Peelle was baffled the first time he saw a referee flag one of his teammates at practice for letting his chin strap dangle. But having suffered at least one concussion already, he is glad the NFL is bolstering its efforts to protect players.

    "It's not an ankle or a knee; it's your head," Peelle said. "That's where you have serious damage down the line. Players, coaches, training staffs, we're all starting to see the effects on guys who had them 20 or 30 years ago.

    "I've heard depression is very prevalent for some of these guys who have had six or seven concussions. You can see if someone has a limp, but you can't tell if they have depression."

    Former New England linebacker Ted Johnson, 34, has been diagnosed with depression and brain damage after suffering multiple head injuries. He said he played without proper recovery time.

    It's hard for players to shake the machismo mentality of playing through pain no matter the injury, said Chris Nowinski, who played defensive tackle at Harvard.

    "You've got guys out on the field playing in casts, and you're just dizzy or disoriented," Nowinski said of someone who has suffered a concussion. "In the relative scale of things, it seems minor."

    Nowinski, 28, is a pharmaceutical consultant in Waltham, Mass., who has become an activist in research regarding the link between concussions and long-term damage. Interest in the topic increased after the suicide in November of former NFL defensive back Andre Waters, a Pahokee native. Waters, 44, had multiple concussions during his career and later suffered from depression

    "Andre Waters was a huge story," Nowinski said. "People really started to take notice."

    Nowinski worked with Waters' family to procure his brain for examination by Dr. Bennet Omalu, a neuropathologist at the University of Pittsburgh. Omalu reported strong similarities between Waters' preserved brain and that of a typical 85-year-old patient with Alzheimer's disease.

    Stories like Waters' have commanded the attention of players like Holliday, 31.

    "A lot of times you undervalue your health," he said. "My wife is saying, 'What are you doing?' But this is what we've been trained to do. You play through pain and you play through injuries that you shouldn't have.

    "But the old-school mentality is out the window now."

    Even if the outcome isn't as tragic as Waters' case, players with post-concussion syndrome may have trouble with memory and concentration.

    "You hear about post-concussion syndrome and you chuckle, but there really is something to it," former quarterback Joe Theismann said.

    Theismann played pro football from 1971 through '85 and said he suffered five to 10 concussions.

    "If you could identify fingers the trainer was holding up, you went back into the game," he said. "Our education on concussions was nonexistent, but what we did know was if you sat down and didn't play, and another guy did well, your career was gone."

    Holliday said that hasn't changed.

    "Guys are competitive ... so if a doctor or trainer wants to be misleading, he can," Holliday said. "You go on that guy's word. You trust him with your well-being. Most guys believe they have the player's best interest at heart, but that's not always the case."

    Holliday said he wouldn't be surprised to see players use the whistle-blower system, but said it might not be able to preserve anonymity because only a select group of people are privy to a player's medical information.

    "A lot of times these conversations happen behind closed doors," he said. "People don't see, and it's intended to be that way."

    The NFL disagreed with Holliday's concern, calling protection for those filing a report "crucial."

    The chin-strap policy will be simpler to observe and implement.

    Dolphins coach Cam Cameron has asked practice referees to be vigilant about flagging players for dangling chin straps, a fashion fad believed to be started by former cornerback Deion Sanders.

    "Every DB does it," said Dolphins corner Jason Allen. "I've done it since junior high ... because I wanted to emulate Deion."

    Allen said he didn't know the reason for the new regulation.

    "They just say it's the rule," he said. "It doesn't matter."

    Allen and receiver Derek Hagan, said they have been taught very little about the symptoms or risks of concussions.

    "They just tell us," Hagan said, "to make sure we keep air in our helmets."

    http://www.palmbeachpost.com/dolphins/content/sports/epaper/2007/06/03/a1b_concussions_0603.html
  2. theogt

    theogt Surrealist Zone Supporter

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    I'm simply not seein how this could be anonymous. How many people would have intimate knowledge of whether the player is being pressed to return too early? The coach, the player, and the physicial, no?
  3. burmafrd

    burmafrd Well-Known Member

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    ITs going to be very tough indeed for the teams NOT to be able to figure out who blew the whistle. Especially if this was done in the locker room, behind closed doors. NOW if it is done on the sideline during a game, that is another story- too many people wandering around who could listen in. NOT to mention all the microphones from TV and radio.

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