Concussion Prevention in the CFL

by Staff Writer – Jason Langvee

The past year has been eye opening when discussing the ease with which concussions can occur in professional sports. Football is by no means immune. In fact, based on the nature of the game and the increasing level of athleticism in leagues such as the CFL, one would expect football to yield the highest rates of concussions in professional sports. In the past year, however, the public has heard relatively little about CFL players incurring head injuries. Why might this be?

Football will always remain the most physically taxing sport to be played globally. This very notion, however, might be the sport’s saving grace when it comes to concussion and head-injury awareness. The CFL commenced a “Concussion Awareness and Management” program last year, aimed at educating individuals ranging from Peewee to Professional levels. Basic information is provided including: symptoms, management and rehabilitation, and education for the athlete as well as those making decisions on behalf of the athlete. Alongside this educational aspect of the program, all CFL roster players are subject to minimum baseline cognitive testing during training camp. This allows the treatment of head-injuries in all players to occur with a much higher rate of efficacy, if the need should arise.

There is inherent risk in playing any sport professionally. In football, physicality magnifies this risk and therefore it is important to have programs designed to protect the players’ health and wellbeing. The CFLPA is focused on player safety, and concussions in particular. Brian Crawford, a former player representative with the Toronto Argonauts, addressed this idea specifically in last year’s concussion awareness conference. “We’re working with our league and football across Canada to draw a clear line between the risk we accept as athletes and reckless and irresponsible behaviour that endangers players.”

In the wake of the concussion epidemic of 2011, the need for head-injury awareness has never been greater. Education is the first step in reducing the amount of head injuries seen. The CFL and the CFL Player’s Association have been, and are striving to provide their players, as well as the rest of Canada with education surrounding concussions. It is for this reason that the CFL sees fewer head injuries per season than most other professional leagues.

Athlete safety means athlete longevity, and for the fans, this means competitive football unrivaled anywhere else in the world.

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