NEW YORK – The NFL will distribute a new poster to teams that warns of the dangers from concussions in much harsher language than the league had previously used.
Traumatic brain injury “may lead to problems with memory and communication, personality changes, as well as depression and the early onset of dementia,” the document reads. “Concussions and conditions resulting from repeated brain injury can change your life and your family’s life forever.”
The acknowledgment of such risks is a significant change from a pamphlet previously distributed to players, starting in 2007.
That pamphlet said: “Current research with professional athletes has not shown that having more than one or two concussions leads to permanent problems if each injury is managed properly.”
Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, co-chairman of the NFL committee that studies concussions, said that recent research — even reports that have come out in just the last few months — influenced the changes in wording.
Ellenbogen, a neurosurgeon at the University of Washington who became the co-chair in March, said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wanted the committee to “get in front of the medical evidence.”
He said Goodell told members, “We need to be the leaders,”
The new wording was first reported by The New York Times. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed the changed language on Tuesday.
The document was a joint effort of the NFL’s and union’s medial committees. Ellenbogen said they consulted with experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health and Department of Defense.
Ellenbogen said the committee also talked to players, including Seattle Seahawks special teams ace Sean Morey, about how to word the poster so that players would heed its warnings.
“This is the most avant garde, up-to-date scientific document out there for a contact sport,” Ellenbogen said.
Dallas linebacker Anthony Spencer said it’s important for players to be aware of the risks, but he’s not sure the new poster will make them any more knowledgeable.
“I’m sure everyone knows,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a big secret.”