At the end of the summer, the National Football League (NFL) decided to take action to reduce the number and potential effects of concussions. It created a poster that outlined the organization’s position on concussion, including the fact that players should know the symptoms, report them, get checked out, and basically start taking concussions seriously. After all, recent research suggests that repeated concussions may be more than just a passing pain–they may cause early dementia and neurologic wasting similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease.
As the football season started, health officials watched to see how the NFL would really respond to head-hits. The first few weeks weren’t good. Players were put back in the game after only a cursory examination…including Stewart Bradley, a Philadelphia Eagles player who staggered and and then collapsed on the field after attempting a tackle. He was put back into play after 3 minutes (but taken out at halftime).
But finally it looks like the NFL is putting money where its mouth is…its players’ money, that is.
A day after saying it would consider suspending players for helmet-to-helmet hits, the N.F.L. decided Tuesday to fine three players involved in a string of injurious collisions last Sunday.
The N.F.L. wants to give players and teams fair warning that it plans to ratchet up discipline for violations of players’ safety rules, the league spokesman Greg Aiello said. Players, coaches and teams will be told Wednesday that future disciplinary actions will be harsher, setting the stage for possible suspensions.
Two players received fines of $50,000. The worst fine was for a serial trouble-maker, linebacker James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who was fined $75,000.
It’s probably going to take a while for players and teams to fully embrace the new rules. From the time they first pick up a football in Pop Warner games, players learn to hit hard, and they learn how to take body hits. After a lifetime of learning to tough it out and walk off pain, this new culture of caring about concussions is going to take some getting used to. It’s about time. How many brains and lives have been put at risk for the sake of a sport? Now that everyone knows better, we applaud these fines as a good start. We’re not sure where the fines are going, but it would be great if the money could be donated to brain injury research.
Hey, NFL! We have a list of worthy research groups, if you need some ideas.
(For a list of great brain injury support and research organizations, see our website: HensonFuerst Brain Injury page)
Information Sources (click titles for direct link)
The New York Times: “N.F.L. Fines Players for Hits to Head”
Previous HensonFuerst blog: “NFL is All Talk, No Proper Action”
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