The NFL’s 32 owners voted Tuesday to approve a safety measure that will allow third-party athletic trainers to stop games via a medical timeout if players display concussion-like symptoms. The trainers, known as “spotters,” will have the authority to directly contact game officials to get a disorientated player to the safety of the sideline.
The NFL Competition Committee recommended third-party medical timeouts in part due to the injury sustained by New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman during Super Bowl XLIX in February, according to ESPN. Edelman appeared unstable on his feet after a hit from Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, but remained in the game despite his questionable status. The new measure aims to prevent similar situation in the future.
“It came a little bit from the health and safety committee just saying, ‘we’ve got these [certified athletic trainers] spotters,” McKay said. “They’ve got a really good vantage point. They’ve got technology in their booth. They’re communicating pretty well with our trainers and doctors, and we’ve got a pretty good rhythm going there.’ Why would we miss a play when a player should come out?”
Game officials will let both teams make necessary substitutions in the event of a medical timeout. Neither the injured player’s team nor the opposing team will have to use one of its three allotted timeouts.
The new safety measure was enacted amid increased public scrutiny of NFL player safety, specifically as it pertains to head injuries and the long-term effects of concussions. San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland retired from the league last week at just 24 years of age due to concerns about his long-term neurological health. He was the fourth player aged 30 or younger to retire from the league this offseason. Terms of the NFL’s $1 billion settlement with hundreds of ex-players who alleged the league failed to properly instruct them about the dangers of head injuries are still being finalized, according to the Associated Press.
NFL owners also approved new safety measures Tuesday to extend bans on blocks below the waist known as “chop blocks” and “peel-back blocks,” and to protect defenseless receivers from illegal hits.