The NFL is urging all 50 states and the District of Columbia to pass legislation targeting concussions in student-athletes, a shift from its position just two years ago.
“We’re fortunate that we have more than 3.4 million young athletes playing football, and we want to continue to keep our player source strong and keep it large,” Joe Browne, a senior adviser to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, said, according to the Associated Press.
You may remember Browne’s name from yesterday’s post about concussions, as he’s throwing his weight behind a student-athlete concussion bill in Colorado.
Overall, 11 states have already passed concussion legislation for student-athletes, according to SportsConcussions.org. Other states, including Colorado, Kansas, and Illinois, are currently debating concussion bills.
The concussion legislation supported by the NFL is modeled after Washington state’s “Zackery Lystedt Law,” which was named for a middle school football player who sustained a serious brain injury after returning to a game while concussed. Washington’s concussion law, like those being discussed in Colorado, Kansas, and Illinois, requires coaches to remove any student-athletes suspected of a concussion from competition, and those players must obtain a doctor’s note before returning to play.
The NFL has also thrown its support behind a concussion bill that was re-introduced in Congress last month.
“There’s no question that some of this is a PR play, that the NFL, like any league, is always looking to protect the image of the game,” Gabe Feldman, director of the Sports Law Program at Tulane University Law School, told the AP. “But it’s also a lot more than that. They’re also protecting their product” by helping to minimize concussions in their future players.
The NFL’s current stance on the interrelatedness of concussions and long-term brain injuries is a complete 180 from its attitude two years ago. In an October 2009 congressional hearing, Goodell refused to acknowledge a link between concussions and brain diseases later in life.
In the same hearing, former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber brought up the topic of youth football, saying, “My ask of you is that you find a way to mandate that every high school athletic program has access to medical doctors who can diagnose, understand, and treat concussions.”
Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., who took Goodell to task in the 2009 hearing, took a more positive tone about the NFL’s new youth-concussion initiative.
“While it heartens me to see that the NFL’s finally embraced the growing body of scientific evidence that points to major problems for people who suffer multiple concussions,” she said, according to the AP. “It’s been a long time coming.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.