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NFL Set to Implement New Sideline Concussion Test in 2011

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An Associated Press report confirms that the NFL plans to reveal a new sideline concussion test that they will implement in the 2011 season on Friday during the NFL Combine.

But the NFL says the new sideline test will include a checklist of symptoms, a limited neurologic evaluation and a balance assessment. It will employ many components of the evaluation process developed during a Concussion in Sport meeting at Zurich in 2008.

The test was developed by the NFL's Head, Neck, and Spine Committee, with input from the NFL team physicians and athletic trainers and their professional associations.

The NFL has taken large steps to curb concussions over the past couple seasons, creating, the sometimes unpopular, rules about helmet-to-helmet hits on defenseless receivers and quarterbacks. Wide receiver Jordan Shipley missed games thanks to a concussion as a result of a vicious hit in the end zone against the Browns by T.J. Ward. For that hit, Ward was fined $15,000

Luckily for Shipley, his concussion had no long term effects and he was able to re-join the Bengals and finish the season.  However, that isn't the case for all players. Former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson committed suicide last week by shooting himself in the chest.

A note was found by his body that read:

"PLEASE, SEE THAT MY BRAIN IS GIVEN TO THE NFL’S BRAIN BANK."

This is just one of many recent reports of debilitating and degenerative effects that multiple concussions can have on long-time athletes in one of the world's most violent sport. The NFL taking steps to protect NFL players from these effects is a positive sign of the league and players cooperating to usher the sport into a new era where hopefully the game can be as safe as possible without losing any of the bone-rattling hits that fans love so much.

This is also a positive sign that the NFL and NFLPA are making some headway in the mediated negotiation for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Before the Super Bowl, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, Hines Ward, had an explicit conversation with the media regarding the subject.

"Man, nobody paid attention to that video," Ward told the magazine. "We don't know what they want. They're so hypocritical sometimes. They came out with these new helmets that are supposed to stop concussions. If they care so much about our safety, why don't they mandate that we wear the new ones? If they're so worried about what concussions will do to us after our careers, then guarantee our insurance for life. And if you're going to fine me for a hit, let the money go to veteran guys to help with their medical issues. To say the league really cares? They don't give a f—- about concussions.

If the NFL is attempting to prove to players that they are trying to prevent concussions as best as they can, it could be a positive sign that labor negotiations are heading in the right direction instead of towards a lockout when the current CBA expires on March 4.