The change for the NFL in searching for and making sure all players with concussion symptoms get checked out will make its debut this weekend. The addition of non-team paid (NFL) athletic trainers will help with game observation. The wide angle and TV in the booth should alleviate some of the issues of being preoccupied or blocked from the action.
The concussion observing athletic trainer will not have the authority to actually pull the players nor make any recommendations regarding evaluation. Rather they will be in communication with both teams to insure that Player X has been checked out. This process would be similar to the Head Impact Telemetry System (HITS) being employed on college and high school fields. Instead of using a pager to notify the athletic trainer of an exceedingly high impact, the “independent” athletic trainer will call down to the sidelines.
Yesterday on the Baribeau & Scarbo Show I discussed how it may in fact go down. I was and still curious as to how the team athletic trainer will receive this new policy. Personally at first I would be put off by it, call it ego, but after taking emotion out of it I would embrace the ability to keep everyone as safe as possible. John Norwig, head athletic trainer for the Pittsburgh Steelers, seems more than happy to have the surveillance;
“To have a trainer who is used to taking care of players providing another set of eyes, I don’t have any problem with it.”
Norwig’s comments are in direct contrast to a conversation I had with an NFL athletic trainer around this time last year. I was told that simple observation could not identify possible concussions; one had to be on the sidelines to determine if anything actually happened. Needless to say this person was extremely adamant that what we did on this blog was “out-of-bounds”.
The simple fact is that not all concussions are seen or reported for many reasons. The job of an athletic trainer is to protect athletes from injury and themselves, so the “McCoy Rule” is a good thing and a great first step.
All that being said, I am still waiting for the NFL to give me a call, I think our track record speaks for itself.