NFL DOC: BARRING CONCUSSED PLAYERS "DEFINITELY COULD BE SOMETHING IN THE FUTURE"
"Stanford wide receiver Chris Owusu went undrafted during the NFL's lengthy
seven-round draft over the past few days. It's not because of his talent -- the
NFL Draft Scout guys had him pegged as the 35th-best wideout in the draft. It's because of his concussion
history -- three in 13 months -- and that sort of history could eventually
prevent players from entering the NFL.
At least Dr. Robert Cantu, the
co-chair of the NFL's head, neck and spine committee, says that it "definitely
could be something in the future" anyway. Cantu spoke with Jim Trotter for an
article in the latest Sports Illustrated and conceded the possibility
of instituting "preemptive measures to keep concussed players out of the NFL"
(Trotter's words) "definitely could be something in the future" (Cantu's). The
doctor also said, however, that "the concrete data isn't there right now" to
warrant doing such a thing. But it's at least, apparently, something that's
"What's going to help in the future is we'll not only
be able to look at [a player's] history of concussions, but we'll be able to see
structural changes on imaging studies that aren't available now," Cantu said.
"Or there will be bio markets in the blood or spinal fluid that will allow us to
identify individuals who have already had brain injuries that we can't detect
right now. These things will greatly aid making those judgment
The current NFL process of eliminating players from consideration
for playing is simply merit-based: Owusu is an example of how health can be a
big factor in determining value for college players jumping to the pro game.
(Ask Washington running
back Chris Polk about this too.) One team's general manager told Trotter that
Owusu is "off our board" because of his concussion issues and that "it wouldn't
matter if he was RG3, he'd still be off our board."
The possibility of
the league stepping in and preventing someone from attempting to play
professional football because of health reasons would likely raise some legal
issues, but the NFL's already put an artificial age barrier in place for
potential prospects, so doing the same for health reasons, based on the premise
of increasing player safety and limiting liability, is certainly a possibility
on the future.
My colleague <a href="http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/story/17445973/owusu-chasing-his-nfl-dreams-but-teams-will-think-twice-about-him/rss">Pete
Prisco wrote about Owusu at the combine</a> and pointed out that, even with
Owusu's injury history, it's tough to tell a kid to quit chasing his dream. But
the NFL, always a reality-check-filled business, will apparently consider doing
that at some point in the future."