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NFL to provide neurologists on sidelines

Published: Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 9:55 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — NEW ORLEANS — The NFL is about to take another significant step toward better in-game diagnosis of concussions.

Jeff Pash, the league’s general counsel, said at a news conference Thursday the league will have independent neurological consultants on the sideline during games starting next season.

This season, the league put a certified trainer up in the booth during games to help with concussion diagnosis.

It also installed replay monitors on the sideline for use by team training and medical staffs to review injuries. But as former Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder acknowledged in November, those monitors often didn’t work.

The NFL Players Association has been urging the league to put independent neurologists on the sidelines for several years now. Interestingly, in a glaring example of the frayed relationship between the league and the players union, the league sprung the news about neurologists on the sideline right before the NFLPA’s annual Super Bowl week news conference.

DeMaurice Smith, the NFLPA’s executive director, said the league had not notified him about the plan.

Pash acknowledged that the plan hasn’t been finalized and that “details need to be worked through” with the union.

At the union’s news conference, Smith said there were several instances this season where sideline concussion protocol was not followed by teams.

He also was critical of the league for last season’s officiating lockout, which he called “one of the most deliberate disregards of player safety that has occurred in the NFL since its inception.”

Smith said the union will ask the league to add several amendments to the collective bargaining agreement, including an affirmation of duty of safety from the league to the players.

The union also revealed results of its annual player poll, which showed that 78 percent of the players do not trust the teams’ medical staffs.

Asked for other examples of what he described as the league’s “reckless” disregard for player safety, Smith said that the San Diego Chargers’ current team doctor has twice been found guilty of medical malpractice.

The NFLPA also announced a partnership with Harvard University in which school researchers and doctors will conduct a comprehensive examination of player health and safety in the league. Some of the areas it will study include medical ethics, sports medicine, repetitive brain trauma, wellness, aging and cardiovascular disease and other topics relevant to the player population.

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