NFL players who suffer violent blows to the head in games will be evaluated for possible concussions by using a new system of tests in the 2011-2012 season, according to reports.
The news comes after a season in which head injuries made headlines in sports coverage, as the NFL levied record fines against defenders whose hits on defenseless players were determined to be beyond newly tightened rules.
And less than a week ago, former NFL player Dave Duerson shocked the football community by committing suicide — and leaving a note requesting that after his brain be studied under the NFL's Brain Bank program, which analyzes the ways the sport might change brain physiology.
More details about the new test will come out Friday, when the NFL holds its scouting combine. Here are more details, from the AP:
But the NFL says the new sideline test will include a checklist of symptoms, a limited neurologic evaluation and a balance assessment. It will employ many components of the evaluation process developed during a Concussion in Sport meeting at Zurich in 2008.
The test was developed by the NFL's Head, Neck, and Spine Committee, with input from the NFL team physicians and athletic trainers and their professional associations.
The effort to protect players from possible brain injury related to concussions may help extend the careers of the NFL's offensive stars. For instance, Super Bowl-winning quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers suffered two concussions in the 2010-2011 season.
Back in 2000, concussions put a premature end to quarterback Troy Aikman's career. The former quarterback is widely believed to have suffered at least 10 concussions in his career.
A New York Times article relates the aftermath of one of Aikman's concussions, in a 1994 playoff game that put him in Super Bowl XXVIII.
That article — from 17 years ago — includes this line: "Aikman's concussion has focused attention on a dangerous and recurring injury in the National Football League."
Sadly, that attention seems to have resulted in only incremental gains in players' safety — mostly due to improved helmet design and materials.