New England Patriots: Time for NFL to really step up on concussions

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 12: DeVante Parker #1 of the New England Patriots is assisted off the field after a play against the Arizona Cardinals during the first quarter of the game at State Farm Stadium on December 12, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 12: DeVante Parker #1 of the New England Patriots is assisted off the field after a play against the Arizona Cardinals during the first quarter of the game at State Farm Stadium on December 12, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots have been hit by injury this season like every other National Football League team. Perhaps the most onerous, dangerous, and unpredictable are concussions. It’s time for concerted action by the NFL to do more about preventing them it.

New England Patriots had three players, DeVante Parker, Jonnu Smith, and Marcus Jones, inactive, for the Miami game on January 1 due to concussions. It’s a major NFL player health issue that impacts the Patriots as it does every other NFL team.

And it also hurts the teams on the field, of course. Losing good players to injury is not helpful to any team’s effort.

Here’s what notes about the effects of multiple concussions,

"The long term effects of multiple concussions are wide-reaching. In addition to causing brain dysfunction, concussion can cause dysfunction in the vision and vestibular systems, in the autonomic nervous system (ANS), and even in hormone production. As a consequence, you can experience symptoms throughout the body in almost any organ system — from blood pressure and breathing dynamics to skin health and energy levels. Fortunately, the ANS, vision, and vestibular systems all respond to therapy to some degree."

So what should the NFL be doing?

New England Patriots will benefit from better concussion prevention

The NFL has a concussion protocol and it is subject to massive criticism at times. It’s deserved and something must be done about it.

The NFL needs to act, not only to diagnose concussions and respond in-game when they occur to protect players, but it should also be devoting massive funds to concussion prevention.

Rule changes heavily penalizing direct hits to a player’s head were well-intentioned and well-targeted.

Here’s a statement from the NFL’s Helmet Laboratory Testing Results,

"The NFL, in collaboration with the NFLPA, through their respective appointed biomechanical experts, coordinated extensive laboratory research to evaluate which helmets best reduce head impact severity.The results of the laboratory tests are displayed on the poster below and shared with NFL players, in addition to club medical, training, coaching and equipment staffs to help inform equipment choices. Other factors, in addition to the ranking, should be considered by players when choosing a helmet, including fit, comfort, durability, player position and the player’s medical history. The laboratory test conditions are intended to represent potentially concussive head impacts in the NFL. The results of this study should not be extrapolated beyond the NFL, including to collegiate, high school or youth football."

If the focus as noted above is on which “helmets best reduce head impact severity”, that’s fine, but it’s not enough. The NFL with its massive resources needs to do more.

The NFL should not only be evaluating current models but should be researching and developing new and much more protective models on its own. Protection and concussion prevention should be the league’s job one, not just reacting after a concussion has or may have taken place.

New England Patriots could lead the anti-concussion helmet research effort

Massive conglomerates and corporations don’t like the government interfering with their businesses. Yet, they are their own worse enemies in many cases. They fail to take real self-regulatory action and essentially force the government to step in.

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The concussion/helmet issue is one where the federal government, specifically Congress should step in, call hearings, and fully explore this issue. It doesn’t just impact the NFL, it’s important at any level of football (and hockey for that matter, as well).

With the tremendous technological capability of our nation, developing a helmet system that is more protective and preventive of concussions should be doable quickly, if sufficient resources are allocated.

So-called guardian caps are already available.

"Over two decades later, Guardian Sports is finding a more palatable option for the NFL with the guardian cap. The ability to have a detachable protective layer is especially important to gaining support in an industry that’s historically been resistant to change. At just under $60, it is also a more affordable and accessible option to players and teams beyond the NFL."

We’ve seen them at practices. But where are they in NFL games when the real hitting takes place? Right, nowhere. Maybe players’ vanity doesn’t want them to look a bit different wearing the cap.

That’s too bad. It’s in their best interest. The caps should be mandated immediately by the NFL, the NCAA (hello Charlie Baker!), or Congress if they drag their feet.

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The lives and futures of millions of football participants at every level would be impacted. Sometimes governments and organizations have to do the unpopular just because it’s the right thing to do. This is one of those cases.

The NFL or maybe the Patriots led by owner Robert Kraft should step up. If not, Congress should take the lead. There’s no time to waste.