Explaining the NFL’s latest concussion controversy and policy change : NPR

On Sunday, Miami Dolphins backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater changed into the first participant to be pulled from a sport below the NFL’s revised concussion policy.

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Edward Diller/Getty Images

On Sunday, Miami Dolphins backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater changed into the first participant to be pulled from a sport below the NFL’s revised concussion policy.

Edward Diller/Getty Images

The NFL is as soon as once more below hearth over concussions.

After Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa sustained a couple of huge hits, the 2nd of which left him desiring to be carted off the box, the league and its gamers’ union opened an investigation and mentioned it might overview its concussion policy.

Over the weekend, the investigation findings have been launched and the league introduced it might change a key part of its concussion policy, efficient in an instant.

Now, all eyes are looking at carefully to look how officers deal with concussions as the NFL heads into the 6th week of its season.

Looking to make amends for the latest? Read on.

Why’s this going down now?

The hits on Tagovailoa sparked the latest concussion dialog.

First, in a Sept. 25 sport towards the Buffalo Bills, Tagovailoa used to be driven to the floor and his head hit the turf. Afterward, he stumbled and wanted lend a hand steadying himself, main many audience to imagine he’d been concussed. But he returned to the sport after a clinical analysis, and staff officers later attributed Tagovailoa’s wobbliness to a again damage he’d sustained a couple of performs previous.

Then, 4 days later, Tagovailoa returned to the box for a Thursday night time sport towards the Cincinnati Bengals. He used to be sacked and his head hit the turf once more; in an instant later on, his arms and hands have been flexed unnaturally in what gave the look to be a “fencing response,” a telltale signal of anxious mind damage.

After Tagovailoa’s accidents, many audience – together with former gamers and concussion mavens – criticized the determination to permit the quarterback to go back to play.

“We are all outraged by what we have seen the last several days and scared for the safety of one of our brothers,” mentioned JC Tretter, the president of the NFL Players’ Association. “We need to figure out how and why the decisions were made last Sunday to allow a player with a ‘no-go’ symptom back on the field.”

What is the NFL doing about it?

The NFL and its gamers’ union performed an investigation and launched the findings remaining weekend. The league additionally introduced a change to its concussion policy.

The investigation confirmed that the NFL’s concussion protocol have been adopted in comparing Tagovailoa, who didn’t display concussion signs both all the way through his mid-game clinical analysis on Sept. 25 or in the days that adopted earlier than the Thursday sport. Instead, Tagovailoa’s unsteadiness used to be attributed to a again damage he’d sustained on an previous play.

But the league and union additionally stated that “the outcome in this case was not what was intended” when its concussion protocol used to be drafted.

Now, the policy has been modified. The revision issues ataxia, the clinical time period for the deficient muscle keep watch over related to concussions that may seem as unsteadiness or slurred speech. Going ahead, any participant who’s identified with ataxia might not be allowed to go back to the sport. Previously, gamers may just go back if there used to be some other reason for a second of instability, like how Tagovailoa’s stumble used to be attributed to the again damage.

The new policy has already come into play: During the Dolphins’ sport Sunday, an impartial qualified athletic teacher (also known as an “ATC spotter”) reported seeing the staff’s backup quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, stumble after being hit on the first snap of the sport. The file brought about the new clause of the concussion policy, and Bridgewater used to be pulled from the sport. He’s now in concussion protocol along Tagovailoa.

Is there any connection to this week’s debatable “roughing the passer” calls?

For those that did not watch this previous weekend: A couple of questionable “roughing the passer” consequences raised eyebrows and brought about some to wonder whether the league had requested referees to extra strictly penalize quarterback tackles in the wake of the Tagovailoa incident.

The first used to be a Sunday flag towards the Atlanta Falcons’ Grady Jarrett for tackling Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The different got here Monday night time towards the Kansas City Chiefs’ Chris Jones, whose strip-sack of Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr used to be overturned via the penalty.

The roughing-the-passer penalty is designed to stay defensive gamers from tackling quarterbacks in bad tactics. But many felt the tackles have been suitable and questioned if there used to be a connection between the calls and the Tagovailoa incident.

On Tuesday, The Associated Press reported that the NFL had now not issued any directive to referees, however that the subject can be mentioned subsequent week at a gathering of staff house owners in New York. (Even if any adjustments to the rule are proposed, they’d be not likely to take impact till subsequent season.)

“When you do it right, I don’t believe you should be punished for it,” Jarrett mentioned this week on an Atlanta sports activities radio program. “Hopefully something can come from this and a change can happen but at the end of the day, I would hope that some conversation would be had.”

Statistics display that roughing consequences are down from remaining season. In 2021, there’d been 54 such consequences thru Week 5; this 12 months, there’ve been handiest 29.

What does analysis say about how lengthy gamers must sit down out after a concussion?

Concussion restoration instances range extensively. More critical concussions — like the sort that may reason a participant to stumble or lose awareness altogether — take longer to recuperate from.

Over the weekend, the NFL’s best clinical respectable mentioned that gamers identified with a concussion pass over an average time of 9 days.

That’s in keeping with present concussion analysis. Studies range, however many have discovered a “return to play” timeline inside of that time-frame for elite male athletes like NFL gamers.

Professional athletes in most cases have faster concussion restoration timelines than non-athletes, mentioned Christopher D’Lauro, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Air Force Academy, who known as the NFL’s nine-day median “a good number.”

In his 2018 learn about of concussions amongst cadets at the army academy, D’Lauro and his colleagues discovered that males returned to play extra temporarily than ladies, and “elite athletes” – that means gamers on the college’s NCAA Division I groups – returned to play extra temporarily than non-athletes.

The male athletes had the shortest restoration sessions, simply 20 days, whilst feminine non-athletes wanted double the restoration time, they discovered. Women athletes and males who were not D1 athletes have been someplace in between. (Other research have discovered that pro athletes recuperate much more temporarily than faculty gamers.)

Several components lend a hand give an explanation for the distinction in restoration instances between NFL gamers and a mean particular person, D’Lauro mentioned.

For one, even a wholesome mind is an energy-intensive organ, and concussions could cause an extraordinary build up in mind job. Athletes are higher poised to take in that calories hit, D’Lauro mentioned. “If you’re a normal person and you get a concussion, you don’t have much energetic expense capacity to spare when compared with an athlete who is training year-round,” he mentioned.

The different primary variable is around-the-clock get right of entry to to hospital therapy. “They have certified athletic trainers, they have doctors, they have physical therapists who are monitoring them and progressing them through the protocol at an appropriate rate,” he mentioned.

Returning to the box too quickly after a concussion may also be bad. Research has proven that individuals who enjoy a concussion are much more likely to have a long term concussion, and some research of other people with a couple of concussions have discovered that the next accidents could cause worse signs.

While clinical execs have made primary strides in figuring out concussions, analysis can nonetheless be a problem, D’Lauro added. There is not any unmarried take a look at that may unequivocally determine concussions, in contrast to infections like strep throat. “You go take your kids to the pediatrician, and they do the rapid strep [test], it’s like — you’re good or you’re not,” he mentioned. “There’s nothing like that for concussions. It’s all clinician judgment, so it is pretty hard.”

Research displays that even a unmarried concussion is related to an higher possibility of mind issues like Parkinson’s illness and dementia.

And analysis displays that repeated hits to the head — now not simply concussions – can build up the possibility of creating the degenerative mind situation CTE, which has been present in many former NFL gamers.

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