NFL health chair says game 'safer'

ByPaul Gutierrez ESPN logo
Thursday, April 2, 2015

PHOENIX -- Dr. John York, co-chairman of the San Francisco 49ers and chairman of the NFL's Health and Safety Advisory Committee, spoke briefly to three reporters here at the NFL owners meetings Monday evening and talked about the retiring Chris Borland and concussions.

York said he respected Borland's decision to leave the NFL after one season, citing potential brain injuries and the gray areas surrounding neurological research.

But, York said, "I'm not sure I would come to the same conclusion...there is a culture change.

"Because I think the game has gotten safer. I don't have any problem with his conclusion; I just think that there are things that show positive trends."

York said concussions were down 25 percent in 2014 from the 2013 season, and down 37 percent the past two seasons.

He also said helmet-to-helmet hits were down close to 50 percent over the same tiome period.

In addition, York said that while many observers believe there are upwards of three to eight concussions suffered per game, the actual stat was "about .46 concussions per game" in 2014.

The culture change York referred to has to do with players essentially self-policing when it appears a player seems impaired from a hit.

"What we're trying to do is get anyone who is in that condition, to report it or, if they seem to be groggy, or imbalanced, that they come off the field and they come off the field by our team physicians, trainers, the trainer-spotter in the sky, a teammate, an opposing teammate, a referee," York said. "Any one of those, and bring that to someone's attention.

"I would like to see all of them reported, but I know good and well, as aggressive as these guys are, they want to play."

Borland, who was never officially diagnosed with a concussion last season, said he thought he suffered one in a training camp drill. He never reported it, though.

"What you want the cultiure to be is, they look out for each other," York said. "When they're playing, they play as hard as they can. But they look out for each other."

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