The League

Dr. Mark Adickes
Orthopedic surgeon, former Redskin

Dr. Mark Adickes

Former Redskins' offensive lineman turned Harvard- trained orthopedic surgeon

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Austin Collie sustained his third concussion of the season Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars and will almost certainly be shut down for the year. The number of concussions having an impact on rosters this season has been staggering. The AP reports that 154 concussions were reported during the first eight weeks of the 2010 season. That is a 20 percent increase over 2009 numbers and a 30 percent increase over concussion reports from 2008. Have there really been that many more concussions this season?

Concussion incidence has not skyrocketed that dramatically but rather the percentage of the injuries reported has increased due to heightened awareness. The league and the media have worked in concert to inform football players from the NFL to high school of the importance of reporting head injuries. The NFL accomplished this goal by placing multiple posters in every locker room around the league and by holding educational team meetings during training camp. Can more be done to protect players?

The product that is the NFL can only be tweaked so much before harm occurs. The fines levied this season for helmet-to-helmet hits have had the desired effect and reduced the number of these collisions. As NFL games are viewed this season many instances can be seen where defensive players either redirect blows or decelerate as they make contact in an effort to avoid penalties and fines. No further significant rules changes can be made without damaging the essence of the game. So if rules changes can't protect players what about equipment improvements?

The newer generation of football helmets are fabulous high-tech pieces of equipment. They do a wonderful job of protecting players but concussions occur as the brain accelerates and decelerates within the skull. No amount of technology is going to prevent the brain from contacting the skull when a big hit occurs between NFL caliber athletes. What about improvements in medical care?

The medical teams treating NFL players are a who's who list in the sports medicine field. The treatment regimens and research in the field of concussions have led to better and more objective therapies. No longer are players allowed to return to play until fully recovered all but eliminating second impact syndrome. Further research will lead to a better understanding of the injury and its long term repercussions but care being taken this season will not be improved upon any time soon. So what can be done to protect players from traumatic brain injuries?

The culture in the NFL has to change when it comes to helmet-to-helmet hits. As I said in a piece earlier this year, there is a code among players in the NFL that any attempt to intentionally injure is simply not tolerated. To break this code makes a player a marked man invoking the wrath of everyone with whom he competes. Only when every player on the field realizes that concussions are injuries and plays the game that way will we finally see a reduction in these injuries. Hopefully the transformation will take place quickly enough to avoid rules changes that will ruin the game.

By Dr. Mark Adickes  |  December 21, 2010; 11:29 AM ET  | Category:  Concussions , NFL , NFL Rules , Roger Goodell Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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