The League

Leonard Shapiro
Columnist

Leonard Shapiro

Washington Post sports reporter, editor and columnist who has served on the NFL HOF Selection Committee.

When will they ever learn?

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The headline on one of my must-peruse NFL web sites read "Frazier: Favre Has Concussion, But Not Ruled Out For Sunday," a chilling thought considering that the Vikings quarterback will retire for good once and for all at the end of the season and his team is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier shouldn't play Brett Favre again this year, no matter what the medical tests indicate over the next two weeks. And the Indianapolis Colts would be wise not to even think about bringing second-year receiver Austin Collie back after he suffered his third concussion of the season Sunday against Jacksonville.

"When will they ever learn" is a haunting lyric from an anti-war folk song, one that also should apply to every NFL franchise even thinking about getting a concussed player back on the field a week after being knocked out. Maybe even two weeks, a month, eight weeks, the rest of the season for that matter.

Much to its credit, the league office has finally come to its own senses in the last two years and realized that concussions can no longer be taken as lightly as they seemingly once were. These are life-altering injuries, with both immediate and long-term consequences we are just now starting to understand, but with far more research necessary.

"We think we're better now than we were a couple of years ago," Dr. Daniel Kraft, head of Riley Sports Medicine in Indianapolis told a reporter for the Indianapolis Star after witnessing Collie's concussion from the stands. "But we still don't know 100 percent. There are no clear answers."

The league has cracked down on head-hunting hits, but needs to make them even more expensive to the illegal hitters, with higher fines and longer suspensions. They have also established baseline criteria before a player is allowed to participate in practice and or play in a game after suffering a concussion, but they really don't know for sure how long it takes to come back.

Collie, for example, suffered his first concussion on Nov. 7 against Philadelphia, then sat out before playing against New England on Nov. 21. He was knocked out of that game with what the Colts said were symptoms of a concussion, and sat out the next three weeks before playing Sunday against the Jaguars.

So even if he passed those baseline tests, it now seems so obvious that Collie's head was definitely not in the right place, no matter how much the Colts insist that they followed the proper procedures, or that the New England incident was not really a concussion. Oh really?

Perhaps the procedures need to be looked at again, and again, and again. Perhaps the baseline numbers need to be raised, and raised, and raised some more, even if it means that a player who suffered a concussion in September won't play again until the following year, if that's what it takes.

When will they ever learn, indeed.

By Leonard Shapiro  |  December 22, 2010; 10:02 AM ET  | Category:  Brett Favre , Concussions , Leonard Shapiro , NFL , NFL Rules , Roger Goodell Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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