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Monday, January 09, 2012
Concussion Rules in Professional Sports Leagues: Why They May Not Solve the Problem

BY KURT SAMSON

Professional athletic leagues are moving to adopt rules to reduce concussions and requiring sideline concussion evaluations of injured players before they are cleared to play, but there remains a major issue with players ignoring or trying to mask symptoms in order to stay in the game.

            A number of professional football players have spoken to the media over the last year about how easy it is to circumvent the National Football League (NFL) 2010 concussion sideline evaluation rules, albeit off-the-record. Because concussion rehabilitation can sideline a player for weeks or even months, it can significantly threaten their future earning potential, a powerful incentive for keeping symptoms to themselves whenever possible.

            Players diagnosed with concussions may face weeks or even months of rehabilitation, depending on the severity of the injury and their ability to recover fully. Not unreasonably, they fear this will jeopardize their professional career, especially if they suffer repeated concussions, according to Robert Cantu, MD, clinical professor of neurosurgery and co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE) at the Boston University School of Medicine.

            “All professional leagues, and not just the NFL, are taking concussion seriously and gradually improving their rules, but this is a process and we still have a long way to go, especially with regard to educating players.”

            But it is not just the individual players who have incentives to mask symptoms — teams also have their reasons, he told Neurology Today. Read all the commentary from neurologist experts in the field of concussion and professional sports in the Jan. 19 issue.

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