NFL plans sideline medical examination tents
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.”