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League alters injury policy

Strict guidelines for blows to head

Associated Press / December 3, 2009

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Teams now have new, stricter instructions for when players should be allowed to return to games or practices after head injuries, guidelines that go into effect this week.

In the latest step by the NFL to address a hot-button issue, commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all 32 teams yesterday saying a player who gets a concussion should not return to action on the same day if he shows certain signs or symptoms.

Those include an inability to remember assignments or plays, a gap in memory, persistent dizziness, and persistent headaches.

The old standard, established in 2007, said a player should not be allowed to return to the same game if he lost consciousness.

Yesterday’s memo also says players “are to be encouraged to be candid with team medical staffs and fully disclose any signs or symptoms that may be associated with a concussion.’’

Nearly one-fifth of 160 players surveyed by the AP from Nov. 2-15 replied that they have hidden or played down the effects of a concussion.

The league said its concussion committee, team doctors, outside medical experts, and the NFL Players Association developed the new standards.

Browns’ Lewis on IR
Browns running back Jamal Lewis, who announced last month that he planned to retire following this season, was placed on injured reserve with post-concussion symptoms, a premature and unceremonious ending to his illustrious career.

Coach Eric Mangini, who declined to mention Lewis’s injury in two news conferences this week, said the decision to put Lewis - and safety Brodney Pool - on IR came after consulting with the club’s medical team.

“As I’ve said before, organizationally, players’ health and safety are paramount in any decision we make with regards to putting them back on the field,’’ Mangini said in a statement. “Jamal has been an integral part of this team and he has exhibited a great work ethic. He worked hard, studied hard, and set a good example for the younger running backs.’’

Pool sustained at least his fourth known concussion last Sunday against the Bengals.

With a bruising style that flattened would-be tacklers, Lewis rushed for 10,607 yards, ranking him 21st on the NFL’s all-time list. Lewis was the league’s offensive player of the year in 2003, when he rushed for 2,066 yards with Baltimore.

Ward apologizes
Pittsburgh receiver Hines Ward said at a team meeting that he regretted creating a distraction when he questioned why a concussion had kept quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from playing against Baltimore last Sunday night, a game the struggling Steelers lost in overtime.

Ward already had apologized to Roethlisberger Monday. Ward wasn’t aware a team doctor had advised the quarterback not to play because of post-concussion headaches that followed each of the team’s three practices last week.

Roethlisberger hasn’t reported any headaches since Friday and practiced yesterday for Sunday’s game against Oakland.

Ward is disappointed he spoke out of frustration in an NBC-TV interview taped Saturday night, not long after learning Roethlisberger wouldn’t play in an important game for last season’s Super Bowl champions.

“In hindsight, we’re never going to jeopardize a man’s health issues to play a game,’’ Ward said yesterday. “I wasn’t trying to really not be concerned about his head injury. We were just frustrated we didn’t have our starting quarterback.’’

Jets thin at corner
The Jets will be without cornerbacks Dwight Lowery and Donald Strickland, and backup guard Robert Turner when they face the Bills tonight. Lowery (high ankle sprain) and Strickland (concussion) also missed last Sunday’s game against Carolina. Turner (knee) was injured in the 17-6 victory over the Panthers . . . Although he feels much better, Jacksonville cornerback Rashean Mathis has been ruled out for Sunday’s game against Houston, meaning the Jaguars will have to defend All-Pro receiver Andre Johnson without their top defensive back. “There’s no sense in dragging that out,’’ said coach Jack Del Rio. “He’s just not ready to go yet. We’ll take another peek and hope for next week.’’ Mathis, who owns the franchise record for interceptions (28), injured his groin against the Jets last month and has missed the last two games . . . Eagles running back Brian Westbrook remains sidelined with a concussion and receiver DeSean Jackson’s status for Sunday’s game at Atlanta is uncertain after he sustained a head injury. Westbrook will miss his third straight game after sustaining his second concussion in a three-week span Nov. 15. Jackson was injured in a win over Washington last Sunday. Coach Andy Reid said Jackson is “making progress’’ recovering from his concussion and wouldn’t rule him out for Sunday’s game . . . The Bears placed linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa on IR because of ligament damage in his right knee. Tinoisamoa tore his posterior cruciate ligament during the opener at Green Bay. He was inactive for the next three games, and started against Atlanta Oct. 18 before getting carted off the field during that game . . . Disgruntled Raiders fans are making a high-profile plea for owner Al Davis to step down as the team’s general manager. A billboard was posted on the freeway near the Oakland Coliseum this week, saying “MR. DAVIS, DO THE RIGHT THING, PLEASE HIRE A GM.’’ The group that put up the billboard says it has gathered 21,000 signatures for a petition asking Davis to step down as GM.

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