Despite the strides the NFL and other sports’ sanctioning bodies have made in recent years, it seems that some head injuries are still brushed off as trifles to be dealt with later.
When Detroit Lions offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle banged his head on the field late in the game against the New Orleans Saints, he was not taken out of play as is the protocol for hard hits to the head. The team was aware that a concussion was a possibility, but the coaches put him in for one final play instead of having the team doctors evaluate him immediately.
Granted, the play only entailed the snap and quarterback Matthew Stafford’s taking a knee to end the game, so I’ll allow that there was little chance of a second impact. But small allowances like these so soon after the protocol was implemented does not bode well for future handling of head injuries. Similar lines of logic – “just one more play before he comes out” or “the game’s almost over; we’ll check him out then” – could have much more far-reaching consequences in other circumstances. Not only is delaying diagnosis and treatment risky, but it is also downright dangerous to put an injured player back on the field and gamble that he isn’t injured a second time.
So while this particular move seemed low-risk and innocent, it is the top of a slippery and alarming slope. Let’s hope the NFL and its teams don’t continue down it.
*Scientists have no conclusive evidence as to whether or how the reduction of g-forces during impacts reduces the number or degree of concussions and head injuries. GelDefender products provide supplemental padding as well as cooling and comfort benefits when used with helmets and caps. Participants in activities in which head impacts can occur should always use tested and approved helmets for protection. However, no helmet or supplemental padding can protect the user from all serious head or neck injuries that can result from impacts.