NFL plans side­line med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion tents

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - MARK MASKE

The Na­tional Foot­ball League is im­ple­ment­ing the use of tents on the side­lines for med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tions of play­ers be­gin­ning with Thurs­day night’s Hall of Fame Game be­tween the Dal­las Cow­boys and Ari­zona Car­di­nals in Can­ton, Ohio.

A col­lapsi­ble tent will be on each side­line at ev­ery NFL game this sea­son. The league re­quires that any side­line eval­u­a­tion for a pos­si­ble con­cus­sion take place in­side the tents, which will be spa­cious enough for an exam ta­ble, a player and sev­eral mem­bers of the med­i­cal staff.

“All of our side­line con­cus­sion eval­u­a­tions will oc­cur in­side the tents, which we think will not only ob­vi­ously pro­vide more pri­vacy and dig­nity for the player, but cer­tainly will elim­i­nate some of the vis­ual and au­di­tory dis­trac­tions that we want to try to elim­i­nate to get the best con­cus­sion eval­u­a­tion we can,” Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer, said Wed­nes­day. “We think by hav­ing the player and the ex­am­in­ing physi­cians and ath­letic train­ers in the tent, we’ll get a bet­ter con­cus­sion screen­ing ex­am­i­na­tion done and it’ll im­prove our abil­ity to di­ag­nose and de­tect th­ese in­juries on the side­line.”

The tents have been used in col­lege foot­ball, be­gin­ning with the Univer­sity of Alabama.

The NFL’s con­cus­sion pro­to­col re­quires a player to be taken to the locker room for eval­u­a­tion un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances. That will not change with the use of the side­line tent, Sills said. The tent sim­ply will be in­cor­po­rated into the side­line eval­u­a­tions that pre­vi­ously took place in plain view of fans and tele­vi­sion cam­eras.

“The tent is not re­plac­ing the locker room,” Sills said in a phone interview. “It ba­si­cally just cre­ates a med­i­cal exam room on the side­line where pri­vately you can con­duct the type of eval­u­a­tion that nor­mally we were do­ing just out on the side­line. There are still plenty of con­di­tions, in­clud­ing some con­cus­sion sit­u­a­tions where the player will be taken to the locker room for a full eval­u­a­tion. And spe­cific to con­cus­sion, if dur­ing that screen­ing eval­u­a­tion in the tent there’s any sus­pi­cion raised or any di­ag­no­sis of con­cus­sion is made, then the player will im­me­di­ately be taken to the locker room for the full locker room eval­u­a­tion.”

The use of the tents will be op­tional for ex­am­i­na­tions of play­ers who suf­fer other in­juries.

“I think that as play­ers and team med­i­cal staffs get more fa­mil­iar with the tent, there are go­ing to be a lot of in­juries that they will wish to use the tent for,” Sills said. “But that’s at their dis­cre­tion. I’ve had ex­pe­ri­ence with th­ese tents at the col­lege level. As you may know, they’ve been used in col­lege foot­ball for a cou­ple of sea­sons. My ex­pe­ri­ence has been that play­ers and physi­cians and ath­letic train­ers re­ally em­brace the use of the tent. It pro­vides a much more pri­vate and dig­ni­fied en­vi­ron­ment to get an eval­u­a­tion.

“I just find that every­body is much more re­laxed in­side the tent. I can do a bet­ter exam as a physi­cian, and the player cer­tainly feels more re­laxed be­ing ex­am­ined there. I sort of liken it to if you were go­ing to get a phys­i­cal done by your doc­tor, you probably don’t care to be ex­am­ined out in his wait­ing room. You’d probably rather go to an exam room.”

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