Mackey-White Committee delves deeper into head trauma

The potential for injury while participating in violent collision sports has become more apparent in recent years.  Athletes are now bigger, stronger and faster since the inception of sports like football and hockey.  The problem is clear but the solution is not.  The Mackey-White Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Committee is making an effort to solve this problem.

Named after NFL Hall of Fame players John Mackey and Reggie White, the committee was established in 2009 under the direction of the National Football League Player Association (NFLPA) Executive Director DeMaurice Smith.

"The Mackey-White Committee is the forum which helps guide the NFLPA on workplace safety and the health of our players,” said Thom Mayer, the NFLPA medical director.  “While it originally focused on concussions and traumatic brain injury, its scope now encompasses all aspects of player safety.  Its membership comprises a "Pro Bowl" team of physicians, scientists, and current and former players whose work has been extremely impressive," said Mayer.

Among the most productive features of the meeting is discussion with current and former athletes, some of whom suffer from the chronic effects of TBI.  One request is to protect athletes from themselves when they make bad decisions to keep playing after brain injuries.

Positioning neurologists and other sports concussion experts on each sideline during games is one recommendation that is still being considered by the National Football League.  At collegiate and youth levels of the sport, a recent study confirmed that the association of a licensed health care professional with a team improves the diagnosis and recovery from concussion.

Empowering on-field officials to report concussion and remove injured athletes from play has already been productive.  Instituting a “battle buddy” program that has helped military personnel is under consideration.

It has become clear that football must continue to evolve in order to continue its current level of popularity.

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