Player Protection: NFL Steps Up Its Game

Following a series of injuries, the NFL players’ union is calling foul on the league’s efforts to protect its biggest investment: the players.

An uproar following two player injuries on a visibly flawed field last winter has led the NFL and the players’ union to take a more proactive approach to monitoring field conditions.

The infamous January 6 Redskins-Seahawks game hosted on a noticeably beat-up FedEx Field resulted in injuries for both Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons and Redskins star quarterback Robert Griffin III. Not surprisingly, blame was placed on the torn-up turf, which Seahawks coach Pete Carroll described as “as bad as a field could get.”

The criticism sparked a new, and perhaps long-overdue, overhaul of the league’s field monitoring process. In addition to the NFL’s promise to take a more proactive role, the NFL Players Association initiated its own method for ensuring proper playing conditions. Beginning this fall, the NFLPA enlisted an independent field inspector to observe the NFL-conducted testing sessions and guarantee that the surfaces are safe for play. There is currently one inspector who coordinates with teams on which fields will be monitored each week.

On a side note, the hardworking FedEx Field grounds crew spent their spring and summer renovating the surface and resodding with Latitude 36 bermudagrass. The field passed its first inspection of 2013 with flying colors.

Another issue of contention is the league’s handling of potential concussions. After an NFLPA survey found that nearly 80 percent of players did not trust team medical staffs, the union announced a 10-year, $100 million partnership grant with Harvard University to research and treat player injuries and illnesses. For the 2013/14 season, the NFL has added unaffiliated neurological consultants to its sideline medical staffs during games. The experts will determine whether or not injured players require concussion testing and treatment.

The new improvements come on the heels of the NFL’s $765 million settlement over concussion-related brain injuries among 18,000 retired players. More than 4,500 former athletes – some suffering from dementia and other medical issues blamed on head trauma – had sued the league, accusing it of encouraging injured players to get back on the field and concealing the dangers of concussion. The settlement, unfortunately, will not require the league to admit wrongdoing or release the research and documentation it gathered on brain injuries.

The new initiatives are positive steps toward the goal of keeping players as safe as possible. Whether you work at a professional stadium or a municipal complex, encourage discussion about injury prevention with coaches and players, and never hesitate to offer your expert opinion if you see potential problems.

Tracking Traction

In other athlete safety news, Penn State’s Center for Sports Surface Research has released the results of an extensive traction study that tested 30 types of athletic shoes on both natural and synthetic turf surfaces. The results are compiled in an online database that provides traction values, comparisons between shoes and photos of the footwear included in the study. The database can be found at

Katie Meyers