“I can tell you that not once during [my] entire time have I ever seen a coach or a general manager ask a physician to do something that was not in the best interest of the player,” said John York, owner of the 49ers. “There’s competition on the field, and there’s player health and safety. Player health and safety comes first.”
The league has ramped up its efforts to identify and treat head injuries and announced Thursday it intends to add an independent specialist on every sideline to help monitor and manage concussions. This doctor would not be on the team payroll. Other injuries would still be treated by doctors employed by the team.
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“Make no mistake about it: There’s no game in the world that will have this level of expertise on the field. It looks like a hospital out there,” said Richard Ellenbogen, co-chairman of the NFL’s head, neck and spine committee.
The NFLPA survey speaks to underlying trust issues within the sport, “the pink elephant in the room at every level,” according to Troy Vincent, the NFL’s vice president of player engagement.
“There’s distrust with the league office, a player has distrust with the players’ association, he has distrust with his coach, he has distrust with the medical professionals,” said Vincent, who played 15 years in the league. “But we all have a shared responsibility. . . . That’s a barrier — trust is a barrier.”
While team doctors handle the big injuries and game-day medical care, the team trainers typically handle the day-to-day aches and pains. According to the survey, players were much more pleased with their training staffs. Fifty percent, in fact, said they were satisfied.
Redskins running back Alfred Morris said while he likes the Washington training staff, players entering the league hear stories about the varying quality of medical care offered from team to team.
“[Doctors] are going to do what they’re going to do, even though they work for the team,” Morris said. “There probably are some sketchy ones out there who are going to do, they’re going to lean more toward the owners and stuff. But there are some training staffs that are more concerned about the players or what the team needs and that type of stuff.”
Kent Babb contributed to this report.