Better concussion policy: NFL, NHL or MTV?

When MTV takes more decisive action than the NFL or NHL, perhaps it’s time to look at who makes the final decision in pro sports. ‘Pro’ being the operative word.

MTV’s The Challenge isn’t technically a sport. Unless you hear ESPN’s Bill Simmons and Dave Jacoby talk about it. They’re probably on to something – it should be the fifth main sport. If you haven’t seen the show (it’s not in-season, but it is here), this season – The Challenge: Cutthroat – provided a good example of why everyone should pay attention to concussions. Seriously. MTV.

It’s not like Jersey Shore (but there is drunk fighting and debauchery), it’s more like Survivor meets a gym (30 contestants, 9 challenges). Unlike the quirky challenges in which ‘castaways’ compete, the competitions in The Challenge are extremely physical. Case in point was a team challenge this season in which the contestants had to dive/jump from a moving platform into a pond and then swim a circuit. Chet, a member of the red team, landed awkwardly on the water, and once on the shore he was attended to by paramedics, brought to hospital, diagnosed with a concussion and told he wasn’t allowed to compete anymore.

What made Chet’s removal an easy decision for MTV was at least partly because Chet wasn’t a professional MTV contestant. His career was not The Challenge (at least, I hope not). Whatever his eventual career choice, it will probably not be adversely affected by leaving the show early. To my knowledge, there is no MTV ‘Fan Favorites’ Union.

NFL and NHL athletes have their whole careers, the focus of all their training, to concern themselves with. It’s easy for anyone who is not a current professional football or hockey player to say “Sit out until you’re better” or “Leave the game.” We have nothing vested in it. The players have everything. We know and they know that the smart, logical move is to wait or leave the game entirely. Unfortunately for them, the answer cannot be that easy. This is why the NFL and NHL players’ unions, and the leagues themselves, need to concentrate on prevention. Admittedly, concussion prevention in contact sports is prohibitively complicated. Dissuasion, if done properly and definitively, isn’t complicated at all. You’re suspended! Do it again and you’re out of the league! …and so on…

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