PLAYER HEALTH AND SAFETY: 2018-19 SEASON
Through its Play Smart. Play Safe. initiative, the National Football League is working to drive progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of injuries, enhance medical protocols and further improve the way our game is taught and played. With our partners at the NFLPA, we work to ensure players receive unparalleled medical care and that our policies and protocols are informed by the most up-to-date scientific and medical consensus.
2018 Injury Reduction Plan: Initiatives to Advance Player Health and Safety
After a 16 percent increase in concussions during the 2017-18 season, NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills issued a call-to-action to reduce concussions. The result was the Injury Reduction Plan, a three-pronged approach to drive behavioral changes:
- Preseason Practices: The NFL is sharing information across the league to educate, stimulate change and enhance player safety—including information about concussions in preseason practices. The time during the preseason, the drill, the player position and how each club's injury data compare to the rest of the league are just some of the information shared with each club. We have asked clubs to review practice schedules and monitor contact drills, particularly in the early weeks of training camp.
- Better Performing Helmets: Each year, helmets undergo laboratory testing by biomechanical engineers appointed by the NFL and the NFL Players Association to evaluate which helmets best reduce head impact severity. The results of the laboratory tests are displayed on a poster and shared with NFL players, club equipment managers, as well as club medical, training and coaching staffs to help inform equipment choices. In 2018, based on the results of this study and the opinions of the biomechanical experts involved, the NFL and NFLPA will prohibit 10 helmet models from being worn by NFL players. Moving players into better performing helmets is an important step toward reducing injuries, and it reflects the strong collaboration between the NFL and NFLPA to promote player safety. (Note: Laboratory test conditions are intended to represent potentially concussive head impacts in the NFL. Results of this study should not be extrapolated to collegiate, high school, or youth football.)
- Rules Changes: The third component is the enforcement of rules changes aimed at eliminating potentially risky behavior that could lead to injuries. Through the latest changes, including kickoff modifications and the "Use of the Helmet" rule—which states that it is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent—the NFL is leveraging data in an effort to improve player safety and evolve the game.
The following educational videos were developed for players, coaches and club personnel, and disseminated for review during training camp.
For the 2018 season, the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee—a board of independent and NFL-affiliated physicians and scientists, including advisors for the NFL Players Association—made additional improvements to the Concussion Protocol. Details on those changes and the Concussion Game Day Checklist may be found here.
For more information about these and other efforts to advance player health and safety, please visit PlaySmartPlaySafe.com.
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Jill Pike, NFL, Jill.Pike@nfl.com