The National Football League is forcing teams to bring in independent neurologists to treat players with concussions – a marked shift for the league, which has fought growing evidence that players risk permanent brain damage.Traumatic brain injury can have lifelong consequences for people in all walks of life, not just football players.
My colleague Rick Shapiro has written about the matter at length.Until now, team doctors and team trainers have decided who is too badly hurt to play and who isn’t, The New York Times reported.
But the NFL has suffered increasing criticism in recent months as more evidence about brain damage among retired players has come to light.
“As we learn more and more, we want to give players the best medical advice,” Roger Goddell, the NFL commissioner, said on NBC this week. “This is a chance for us to expand that and bring more people into the circle to make sure we’re making the best decisions for our players in the long term.”
Many details regarding the plan have not been decided or disclosed. It’s not known how the independent physicians will be selected, how they will be paid, or how much weight their opinions will carry.
But even an independent physician won’t be able to easily address the greater problem: long-term damage caused by small, repetitive concussions.
Growing evidence suggests that these concussions – going back to high school – have a cumulative effect on players that heightens risk for depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other illnesses.