The NFL's emphasis on concussion prevention and recognition is extending to the scouting combine.
This week in Indianapolis, all 329 players who were invited will be given a baseline brain activity exam called the ImPACT test, which stands for Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing. They will also face more questioning about their concussion history.
"We're testing everybody, not just at-risk athletes who have had more than one concussion," Dr. Art Rettig, an orthopedic surgeon at Methodist Sports Medicine in Indianapolis, which runs the medical part of the combine, told the Associated Press. "Everybody will have this ImPACT test so they will have a baseline, and whatever team they end up with will be sent that baseline information."
All 32 teams individually run similar tests, but this is a first at the combine.
On Wednesday, the NFL's competition committee listened to presentations about advanced helmet designs that could reduce the risk of head injuries. Many players already wear these new-age helmets, and commissioner Roger Goodell (pictured) has been adament about finding ways to limit hard shots to the head.
"We have to admit, this is a tough game, a violent game, a collision game," said Hall of Fame coach and former television analyst John Madden, who is now a consultant to the NFL. "How do we make it safer? We have to educate players and coaches and trainers, equipment is another way and rules changes are another way. But it can't be just any one of those things. It has to be all of them together."
Rettig said he and his team of doctors will spend all four days of the combine questioning the future NFL players in order to give them a clean bill of health heading into April's draft.
They may be hard pressed to find a player who is forthcoming about past concussions, especially because all the teams are searching for red flags before investing millions of dollars on them. Rettig says, that's where the ImPACT test comes in.
"That's always an issue not only with concussions but with all injuries, trying to improve status by minimizing other injuries," Rettig said. "I think that's one area where the ImPACT test will help us. The ImPACT might pick up the problems."