Emphasizing the input of NFL players who suffer from concussions as to whether they're healthy enough to play creates a disincentive for players to report their symptoms, according to one leading concussion researcher.
"It would create a tremendous disincentive to report that third concussion," said Chris Nowinski, the co-founder of the Sports Legacy Institute, a non-profit dedicated to solving the sport's "concussion crisis." Nowinski went on to tell the Associated Press, "You really want to leave the decision in the hands of a great doctor and an honest patient and let them make the best decision for that athlete."
Nowinski's comments come on the eve of Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker being cleared to return to action this weekend against the Seattle Seahawks after his third concussion in a nine-month span. He was most recently concussed when he was hit in the head during a preseason game Aug. 23.
While neurosurgeons say another hard hit on Welker would not necessarily be career-ending, Welker is at an increased risk for a big hit to do significant damage. University of Chicago neurosurgeon Julian Bailes told AP regarding Welker's return:
"We know that having multiple concussions is not good. It's not necessarily career-ending ... A contact-sport athlete who's had multiple concussions in a short period of time does risk further concussions and risks that it becomes a season- or career-ending proposition if they return to play."
While doctors do have a significant say in whether players are allowed to return to the field, the NFL values players' input as to their level of readiness. While Welker is aware of the debate surrounding the wisdom of his returning to action four weeks after his most recent concussion, he remains undeterred.
"I appreciate their concern, I really do," Welker told the Associated Press. "But at the same time, I feel great. I feel sharp and I feel ready to go."
Welker will wear a larger helmet this week to protect against further concussions.
- Will Green