The physical demands placed on professional football players are astounding. The amount of physical contact and the impact of this contact continue to intensify.
The length of disabled lists at Week 14 has also grown. The highest profile disabled players appear to be quarterbacks and running backs: Tom Brady, Kurt Warner, Brian Westbrook and Ben Roethlisberger.
Unfortunately, there are also a growing number of unqualified critics casting doubt on the validity of these injuries. Sadly, among these critics are outspoken teammates.
The human body has a remarkable ability to let a person know when it’s injured. Symptoms such as pain, diminished performance and cognitive changes are a clear indication that rest is needed. Although this sounds simplistic, the amazing part is how often athletes ignore these symptoms and go on to more severe or chronic injuries.
Many young, inexperienced athletes may disregard these indications. That is why coaches, parents and athletic trainers must monitor their activities. Adult athletes have no excuse for not being “in touch with their bodies.”
The NFL has recently assigned impartial neurologic consultants to every team. Their job is to specifically determine when an athlete should not play after a concussion. The difficulty is that there are no clear physical signs of concussion like a sprain or wound and the MRI is usually normal. The physician must rely on the information provided by the athlete.
One role of a sports medicine physician is to “run interference” for injured athletes. At times, athletes will come forward and explain symptoms that indicate a need for rest. It is the responsibility of that physician to place that player on the disabled list and deflect any criticism aimed at the athlete.
Successful athletes at any level know how to read their injury signals.