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Are NFL players aware of brain injury risk? Part two

Earlier this week, we talked about a recent report from the Associated Press in which professional football players admitted that they would be hesitant to leave a football game after suffering a concussion.

Certainly, a player should be able to decide whether he wants to continue playing after a potential concussion or other brain injury. But some believe that the NFL should do more to protect them from themselves and their willingness to play with a head injury. Of the 44 players surveyed, more than two-thirds said that they would like to see independent neurologists - doctors not associated with or paid by the NFL - on the sidelines during games.

Some medical professionals believe that would unnecessary. Team doctors are concerned with concussions and with players' overall health, so they should, in theory, be a sufficient protection against the lasting head injury caused by concussions. There have been allegations that coaches are instructing doctors to look the other way when potential head injuries happen, but that has not been confirmed.

In sum, it appears that the NFL has been making improvements in how it handles head injuries. The majority of the players surveyed stated that they are more aware of the lasting dangers of concussions than they were two years ago, and more players are missing games and seasons than they did in previous years. For example, an average of just 3.1 players went on injured reserve because of concussions from 2000 to 2009. That increased to 18 players last season, and so far this season 17 players have been placed on injured reserve because of concussions.

However, it appears that both players and the league have accepted concussions as a way of life in the NFL. "You're never going to be totally safe from concussions in this game," said one player. "This is the only place where you can actually legally assault people."

Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution, "Some NFL players still willing to hide concussions," Howard Fendrich, Dec. 25, 2011

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