nfl-concussions
Associated Press

How The NFL Is Tackling The Concussion Drama Head-On

NFL's Senior Vice President of Health and Safety sounds off.

The NFL is in a different head space. Tom Brady's DeflateGate controversy is (finally) old news and the 2015 season is two weeks deep, already hype for next year's Super Bowl 50.

However, the increasing concern over head injuries and concussions has kept the league from doing a victory dance. With young talent like former Niners linebacker, Chris Borland and ex-Packers wide receiver, Adrian Coxson, retiring at 24 and 23, players' safety has shot to the top of the priority list.

Ask NFL's Senior Vice President of Health and Safety, Jeff Miller, though, and he will gladly outline the positives that have come from countless safety issues. From implementing new technology for better play-by-play review to landing a neurotrama consultant on-site, Miller breaks down the league's latest protocols and expands on its Health and Safety report, aimed at making the NFL's concussion drama a thing of the past.

VIBE: Last year the league saw a big decrease in player’s risks of head injury during a game. In your opinion, what has been the most effective change since implementing and enhancing current protocol?
Jeff Miller: There’s a number of different additions or changes to the game that probably can best be summarized by talking about the culture change as it relates to head injuries in football. There’s been a number of rule changes that have taken the head out of the game of protective, defenseless players. The players have adapted to those changes really well and the coaches have adapted really well to those changes as well in terms of teaching the right techniques. As a result of that, we’ve seen a decrease in concussions over the last three years of 35% and a decrease in concussions caused by helmet hits in that same time frame of 43%. And while those rule changes and culture change have occurred, we’ve also added a number of other elements to the game including independent spotters to identify players who need assistance, unaffiliated doctors on the sideline to help with the evaluation of concussions, video boards on the sideline so that team positions can view particular injuries and the use of tablets and electronic medical records so that the positions have it at their fingertips, a player’s medical history, including his concussion history and the scores on his baseline test. And other things that can help the team position and unaffiliated doctors make a good analysis and evaluation of that player as it relates to concussion so while we’ve seen the concussion numbers go down, as that culture change has taken hold, we’ve also increased the amount of attention on medical effort uniformed in the protocol and added other elements to the field to make sure that we’re capturing the injuries when they occur.

Looking at cases like former Niners linebacker, Chris Borland, and ex-Packers wide receiver Adrian Coxson who have had to retire at very young ages because of head trauma concern, do you feel like there should be additional protocols or rules in place for players who may be in their early or mid '20s?
Well I think that the rule changes that have been made to the game—there’s been almost 40 rule changes over the last ten years that relate to player health and safety—have made our game safer and the addition of independent medical experts, as related to concussions, and the technology improvements that we’ve made have made the game safer overall. And players who are playing today are benefiting from that. Now, that doesn’t suggest that we’re done. We’ll continue to look at the game, our competition committee and our owners health and safety committee will continue to get together looking at medical data, injury trends, injury statistics, and look for ways to continue to improve the health and safety of our sport as well as [continuing] to invest a significant scientific research report to try and advance new materials, new equipment and other things that will better protect players. So there’s still a lot more that needs to be done and will be done but I think that they’re seeing an improvement in players' safety now and will continue to see those improvements over the next few years.

In a past interview, you said that there was “a cultural resistance.” Do you feel like there are emotional factors to also consider when it comes to players potentially denying that they have a concussion until a teammate points out a problem?
I think that it has to be a cooperative effort among those who are implementing the rules, those are identifying the injuries and those who may have suffered an injury to accept the culture where it’s okay to talk [about] assistance where it’s needed. And we’ve seen some of that. We’ve seen some, many examples now, where players, or you can see it in the games, ask for help from a teammate who they think may have suffered a hit and need assistance. We’ve seen it where our officials, who are trained to do this, are looking to help players who may need it and those are positive, very positive steps. I think as the culture change as it relates to these injuries continues to take hold, you’re going to see more of that. And as our players are more educated about the signs and symptoms of concussion and head injury, which they are, they’ll be able to self-report with greater frequency. Those are all positives in our welcome development but at the end of the day, it’s going to have to be a cooperative effort and all parties are going to do their part for overall player health and safety.

Now Will Smith is actually releasing a movie called Concussion later this year that deals with the issue of head trauma in the league. A Sony marketing chief has said that an NFL consultant was hired to see that the league is portrayed accurately. Is there any truth to these statements?
Actually I don’t know what Sony’s story is. As I understood, they hired a consultant to help them with the movie cause there’s no NFL participation in this. The amount of interaction between the NFL and Sony on this, I think, was limited to two emails between somebody from Sony and our head of communications to potentially plan a conversation that never happened. So I think that’s been already discussed in published reports. From what I understand, that’s the extent of the NFL’s involvement with Sony on this movie.

A quick Twitter search shows that there’s an account called @NFLConcussions with the bio reading, “Chronicling every publicly disclosed concussion in the NFL.” Has this type of criticism, especially online, applied pressure to the league to be more transparent and open about their policy changes?
Well I think it’s fair to say that we are. We hold a press conference the last few years at the Super Bowl where we put out all of our concussion and other injury data, and invite reporters in to ask about and talk about it. We engage with reporters like yourself who have questions about this and so, while we were pleased that we’re making strides, we also acknowledge that there’s a lot more to do. But our concussion protocols, which we go over with the player’s association, with outside medical experts, with international experts and concussions are things that we are going revisit every year and if those can be a standard that others can follow then we think that’s our responsibility to share those. Therefore, we do. As one example, there was an article in the paper yesterday that the National Hockey League is accepting one of our additions, which is an independent injury spotter in the media box to identify potential injuries and that’s something we’ve been doing for four years or so now. We think that that’s added to player’s safety because there’s more injuries being identified and that’s head injuries and everything else too and teams' medical staffs are getting the benefit of having a third party sharing information with them and help them identify injuries so players can be cared for. So as it relates to our concussion statistics, our injury statistics overall, the protocols that we use, we share that information and we host get-togethers and conferences with other sports leagues, and are happy to talk to the press about the sorts of things we do and why we do them. I think that’s probably better sport health and safety overall through those efforts.

It’s no secret that the NFL is really big on family. What is your message to a mother who is concerned about her young son playing football but is hesitant to let him because of potential head injuries?
Well, I would say first to that mother if her son wants to play football that she should check out USA football as a football program, which is a program that our friends at USA football launched three years ago with the idea of certifying coaches, proper tackling techniques, equipment fitting and the signs and symptoms of concussion and the signs and symptoms of heat hydration illness and a number of other things. An independent study shows that those kids who participate in Heads Up football leagues have about a 30% lower risk of concussion and about a 70% or more lower risk of injury overall than those who don’t. So the NFL has taken the changes that we’ve made and we’ve hoped to cascade them throughout other levels of our sport and other sports, frankly. So I would tell that mother to make sure your coach is certified, make sure that your league has adopted heads up football and be a good consumer in the activities for which you signed your kids up, whether that be football or other sports because changes can be made and parents should be aware of those who are doing those programs the right way.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Russell Wilson Reportedly Becomes Highest-Paid NFL Player

At the end of the NFL's season earlier this year, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson expressed his desire to remain in the Rain City but only if his deal could be renegotiated. As of April 15, it appears that Wilson, with the help of his agent Mark Rodgers, received exactly what he asked for.

According to ESPN, Wilson and his team of seven years signed an agreement of a $140 million extension, plus an added $65 million signing bonus, currently making the 30-year-old the highest paid player in the NFL.

With this renegotiation, Wilson not only takes the spot as the richest athlete in the league from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but he also set a record with his signing bonus being the highest ever.

Wilson took to his Instagram page to announce the good news with a video featuring his wife, R&B singer Ciara. "Hey Seattle, we got a deal," he said in the clip while lying in bed with Ciara. "Go Hawks. But I'mma see y'all in the morning. Time for y'all to go to bed."

 

View this post on Instagram

 

SEATTLE. Let’s get it. @Seahawks #GoHawks

A post shared by Russell Wilson (@dangerusswilson) on Apr 16, 2019 at 12:43am PDT

News of Wilson's deal comes after four days of negotiating between the quarterback's agent and the Seahawks. Wilson and Rodgers had a deadline for midnight for the Seahawks to make a suitable decision. On Tuesday (April 16), prior to the negotiation being set in stone, Rodgers stated that "at the end of the day my guy wants to live, work, thrive in Seattle. Loves this town and its fans. He compromised to stay here. I respect that."

Wilson's move was welcomed with open arms from Ciara, who took to his Instagram comments to say "So proud of you baby! God is so good! #GoHawks."

Continue Reading
Mike Ehrmann

Tiger Woods Wins The 2019 Masters

Sunday afternoon (April 14) Tiger Woods has won the Masters tournament, his first major win in 11 years. The win marks an official comeback for the athlete after more than a decade of scandals and career lows.

The 43-year-old golf pro walked up to the 18th hole as the crowd cheered, reminiscent of years prior when Woods dominated the sport.

After clinching the title, Tiger smiled and threw his fist in the air. He then hugged his son in the same place he once hugged his father after a Masters win.

WATCH: The moment Tiger Woods makes a historic 11-year comeback as he wins #TheMasters 2019 pic.twitter.com/YlqYRcSwyw

— The Speaker (@TweetTheSpeaker) April 14, 2019

Shortly after his win, Twitter erupted.

“Tiger Woods’ playing career is over. He will never win another major. It’s dead. Bury it.”

Tiger Woods at the 2019 Masters: pic.twitter.com/8AmFPxJ6RV

— NOTSportsCenter (@NOTSportsCenter) April 14, 2019

https://twitter.com/JamalJimoh/status/1117495211737796608

Congratulations, Tiger! To come back and win the Masters after all the highs and lows is a testament to excellence, grit, and determination.

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 14, 2019

However, Tiger's win was also met with mixed reviews by those who remember the player's past offenses, comments, and association.

nothing displays america’s collective ability to compartmentalize quite like a tiger woods victory. we don’t even really like this dude but this feels amazing.

— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) April 14, 2019

Caniblasian golfers winning today. This y’all mans? #TheMasters pic.twitter.com/TQniFveUPD

— Alvin aqua Blanco (@Aqua174) April 14, 2019

Trump gonna tweet congrats to Tiger and the whole TL gonna be like pic.twitter.com/PBIfrFvkuJ

— Justin Tinsley (@JustinTinsley) April 14, 2019

This is Tiger Woods' fifth Masters and after the game, he briefly spoke about the importance of the moment 22 years after his first win.

“It’s come full circle,” Woods said after the win. “It’s a special feeling.”

Congrats to Tiger Woods.

Continue Reading
Allison Farrand

Students At Lebron James' "I Promise" School Exceed Test Score Expectations

It's been nearly a year since Lebron James opened the "I Promise" school in Akron, OH, and so far, the results and impact has been tremendous. According to a new report from The New York Times, the students' test scores have exceeded all expectations.

There are reportedly just 240 students in the inaugural third and fourth grade classes at the school, but their test scores in math and reading have shown a huge improvement. Before the school year started, the students' reading scores were in the one percentile. After taking the district-wide exams one year later, however, the third graders scored in the ninth percentile and the fourth graders in the 16th percentile.

The same improvement was reflected in their math scores. The third graders jumped from the one percentile to the 18th, while the fourth graders moved up from the second to the 30th percentile. Overall, test scores increased at a rate higher than 99 out of 100 schools, according to the Northwest Evaluation (NWEA).

"These kids are doing an unbelievable job, better than we all expected," Lebron told The Times. "When we first started, people knew I was opening a school for kids. Now people are going to really understand the lack of education they had before they came to our school... People are going to finally understand what goes on behind our doors."

Continue Reading

Top Stories