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NFL observers will watch for injuries
November 23rd, 2011
04:52 PM ET

NFL observers will watch for injuries

Injuries are prompting the National Football League to change the way it monitors play during games. 

Beginning with Thursday's games, the league observer in the press box at each stadium will be trying to spot possible player injuries, including concussions, that might be missed at field level. In a memo sent to all of the NFL teams, the league said the decision was made "to enhance the NFL's ability to identify an on-field injury as soon as possible."

The NFL says league observers have been present at its games for decades but have been primarily tasked with following the officiating of the game. Now phone lines from the observer to each team's bench will be installed, allowing the observer direct access to a team's physicians and training staff.

"We would welcome all the additional input we could get," says Dr. Joseph Maroon, Team Neurosurgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers. "It's all about player safety and protection."

Maroon believes this latest decision is evidence that the NFL is taking the issue of injuries, including concussions, seriously.

"They're continually looking at how to improve things further," he says.

In February, the NFL announced a standardized neurological exam for all NFL players that would help team physicians, like Maroon, identify concussions on the field and keep injured players out of the game.

LaMar Campbell, a former safety with the Detroit Lions, says the decision regarding league observers is groundbreaking.

"This will trickle down to the colleges and universities and most importantly the high schools where players are taught about gamesmanship, ethics, etc. Now that they are seeing the NFL is setting a precedent for player safety, this will become more of a rule than just a bullet point in when it comes to playing the game safely."

Concussions sustained while playing sports, particularly football, have become a hot topic around the country. As more science emerges about the dangers of concussions and a phenomenon known as "second impact syndrome," sports leagues along different age levels are modify policies to protect athletes.

Programming note: Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been following  the 2011 season of a North Carolina high school football team.  In 2008, a player on the team died after sustaining a head injury during a game.  For a closer look at the health and safety issues on the playing field, watch  "Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports: Big Hits, Broken Dreams," premiering January 29, 2012 at 8pm ET.


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soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Rick Springfield

    I heard they hired the same people utilized for the now famous hanging chad thing in Florida. They have their pop bottle glasses ready to go.

    November 23, 2011 at 18:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Cremulous

    Bring on the cream!

    November 23, 2011 at 19:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Petruski

    This so-called 'sport' should be outlawed. Humankind is supposed to have improved since the times of the Roman Empire. How long will it take for the American society to become civilized?

    November 23, 2011 at 20:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ace

      Its an American sport mixed with its culture, its not MMA, they are adults and know the risks, back off.

      November 24, 2011 at 09:23 | Report abuse |
  4. Lord Vader

    This is Roger Goodells secret yankee plan to really feminize the NFL.... Soon, there will be flags placed around quarterbacks. More to come!

    November 23, 2011 at 21:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. mmi16

    If trained medical personell at field level can't spot the injured, accurately, HTF are bozos in the press box going to be more accurated.

    Hogwash!

    November 24, 2011 at 01:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mike H.

    Officials upstairs can't get wrong calls overturned despite the help of replay. How are they supposed to detect concussions? And isn't this leading into the possibility of game-fixing, or the appearance of it, once a key player is removed from the game in a crucial situation?

    November 24, 2011 at 03:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. L. C. Dee

    the only pads players are wearing is a helmet and shoulder pads.... That is all they impact other players with now. Take them away and they will not lead with their heads. they may get more bruises but they will have less spinal injuries. Let's see, rugby and Australian rules football do it. Why must we be the only country to enable injuries by giving each player body piercing armor.

    November 24, 2011 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rick

      100% with yea man, with out helmets for example, players would no longer lead tackles with there head. watched one game of aussi rules and it was amazing, made am. football look like childs play by the way.

      November 25, 2011 at 02:00 | Report abuse |
  8. RaKa

    The nfl is in a crisis. There is absolutely no consistency in how rule are enforced or how fines are distributed. It appears to be managed by the mafia. Maybe if players pay protection money the eyesight of refs will get better. Nfl, you are destroying this game. Look for viewership to decline.

    November 24, 2011 at 09:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. John J

    The NFL is all over the map about concussions. Why? It's all about limiting the big one...the big law suit.

    November 24, 2011 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Portland tony

    I think monitoring contact concussions from afar is just a cya reaction regarding a big potential lawsuit in the future. Pro player make big bucks for about 4 years on average. It's a dangerous sport. The better you are the greater change of injury via longevity. Maybe if they played without helmets they would cut down on serious injuries.

    November 24, 2011 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Portland tony

      greater chance of....

      November 24, 2011 at 18:05 | Report abuse |
  11. larry5

    What's the expression that fits here? Putting lipstick on a pig.

    November 24, 2011 at 21:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Rudy

    This is a full contact sport played by grown men who have been playing the game long before ever entering the NFL. It is the nature of this sport that you may possibly injure yourself or other players regardless of the technology out there on the field to help prevent them. This is not flag football...

    November 25, 2011 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. M_C_McBride

    I agree

    November 25, 2011 at 23:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Awakened

    It's a barbarian game! I can't believe schos allow it to be played and that patents encourage their kids to play it...some times to win scholarships to college. Does anyone here see the irony??? I wouldn't be surprised if in a few years it is outlawed to be played in schools, or just becomes prohibitively expensive due to E and O insurance rates to the schools. Plus, the teenagers that play the sport look so scrawny under all that armor...let's switch to a sport that is less brutal and that allows the audience to appreciate the athletes' bodies. It's 2011 for crying out loud, enough with this barbaric game, which is not a lot more civilized than boxing.

    November 26, 2011 at 01:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. tamara reina

    NFL is a boxing ring

    November 27, 2011 at 02:51 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.