NFL Concussion Culture Starting to Change

In the wake of a record number of injuries and former Bear Dave Duerson's dying request, the NFL is taking steps to recognize and handle concussions differently than they have in the past.

A new sideline concussion test designed bt the NFL's Head, Neck and Spine Committee will be unveiled that uses a symptom checklist, neurological exam and balance assessment when a player has a suspected concussion. The NFL also will reportedly start using a protocol that removes injured players from the sidelines and excuses  them from media duty after the game.

They're even pushing state legislatures to pass youth concussion laws to change how concussions are handled and even perceived at the youth level. According to the NFL, 3.4 million children play football, and it's important to keep that pool of future players healthy.

Former Bear Kurt Becker lent a hand in this effort
, testifying in front of lawmakers in Springfield.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says that he's committed to changing the culture of football so that it is more safety-minded. A change has to happen, because life after football is increasingly becoming tragic.

Bears fans learned this all-too-real lesson last week when Duerson committed suicide. His last act before shooting himself in the chest was requesting the study of his brain.

The NFL's efforts to change the culture of football are laudable, but that change is the responsibility of every owner, coach, staff member, player, reporter and even fan. They need to respect a brain injury and not rush a player who took a big hit back to the field.

Players must realize that it's not tough or manly to play before their brain has healed. In fact, the tough act is sitting out when you're not ready to play.

Media has to stop glorifying the big hits or questioning the toughness of a player who isn't back on the field, whether it's the coach or the player's choice.

Finally, it's up to the fans. We have to support, not question, players who are taken out of a game. We have to demand that players are given the support they need when their football days are over. We have to allow these changes to happen and not say, "But back in the old days ..." because we now know what the old days have done to our old heroes.

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