Ravens tight end Todd Heap watches Bengals lineman Michael Myers make a diving interception on a pass from Kyle Boller that had bounced off Heap's shoulder with 1:13 to go.
Concussions have been a problem in the NFL for quite some time now, though unfortunately it has seemingly been swept under the rug. The league has begun taking drastic measures to ensure the safety of its players. However, it's too late for some former players as the lasting affects of concussions have taken a toll on them.
Former Bengals defensive lineman, Michael Myers is suing the NFL for negligence, conspiracy, and fraud in its handling of head injuries that players sustain. Myers is alleging that the concussions he sustained throughout his career have affected his short-term memory along with causing migraines and other health problems.
The league claims that Myers' case has "no merit," thus they aren't taking it very seriously. His suit is one of numerous that have been filed recently by former players regarding how the league has handled concussions.
For those of you who don't remember Myers, he spent the 2007 season with the Bengals. During that season he had 34 tackles and one sack in 15 games. He finished his 10-year career with 316 tackles and 15.5 sacks. He also played for the Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns, and Denver Broncos.
Under the old concussion policy that was established in 2007, a player wasn't allowed to return to the same game or practice if they lost consciousness. Before returning to play a player had to be completely asymptomatic and pass his neurological tests normally before returning to action of any nature. At the time, the league also vowed to expand neurological testing for all players, especially anyone who previously suffered a concussion. A player was required to undergo extra neuropsychological tests later in the year if they suffered a concussion during the season.
Then two years later, the league decided to make some adjustments to the concussion policy. In August of 2009, the league was criticized by lawmakers for not taking more action against concussions and following a meeting at the House Judiciary Committee, a new set of guidelines was released.
Under the new policy, a player isn't permitted to return to practice or a game if they show any symptoms of a concussion, not just a loss of consciousness. After a player has been confirmed with a concussion they must be analyzed by an independent neurologist as well as the team physician.
Then came the giant crackdown as the NFL began issuing large fines and even suspensions to players who commit a helmet-to-helmet infraction. This was the league's first large-scale attempt to reduce the amount of concussions that players suffer. Then came another requirement after Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy suffered a concussion and was allowed back in a game against the Steelers, the league instituted a policy where an independent trainer would observe games and alert team training staffs of a possible head injury.
When the NFL was founded in 1920 players wore leather helmets and little equipment changes were made until the 1950's. Players didn't have helmets that contained thick padding on the inside and a face mask to protect them. But as time has progressed and the field of medicine has advanced, the measure taken to protect a player's health in the long-term has become more evident.
In recent years the league has created rules that basically have changed the face of the game. In the last 15 years chop blocks have become illegal along with defensive players being prohibited from rolling or lunging and forcibly hit the passer below the knee area, even if he is in contact with another player. In the last six years horse collar tackles, unnecessary roughness, roughing the passer, protection of defenseless players and snappers along with too many other rules to list have been integrated into the game. It's gone from a game where players sweat and bleed until their bodies can't take it anymore to a league that's comparable to flag football.
Players have become more hesitant to tackle opposing players because it seems as if any type of tackle results in a penalty, fine, or suspension. But the league assures the fans that this is all to ensure the safety and health of the players, which is understandable. But at some point league officials have to let players play the game because despite all of the efforts from the league, concussions will always remain a problem.