Concussion: How the NFL came to shape the issue that plagued it

ScienceDaily | 10/10/2017 | Staff
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Concussion has dogged the NFL since the 1990s, and its initial response -- avoidance and superficial gestures to mollify critics -- damaged its public image. However, in recent years, the league has repositioned itself as a leader in concussion prevention and research, a new University of Michigan study shows.

The study found that the NFL's newly proactive stance shows how a large organization can wrest control of and shape the very issue that haunted it.

Terms - Leaders - Concussion - Study - Author

"They said, 'We'll change, but it's going to be on our terms. We want to be the leaders in concussion,'" said study author Kathryn Heinze, U-M assistant professor of kinesiology. "They said, 'If we have to change, we'll take credit. We'll create the funding. We'll create the partnerships with other organizations. We'll work to pass new laws.' When they finally realized they had to do something they realized they had to be the leaders."

The NFL is likely one of the few organizations that could achieve this, largely because it's so influential, Heinze said. Still, the league would have been better off implementing these changes years earlier.

Lesson - Changes - Stages - Organizations - Change

"There's a lesson here around getting ahead of these changes sooner and avoiding the intermediate stages where organizations resist or avoid change," Heinze said. "They may have avoided some of those lawsuits, or the Judiciary Hearings on concussion, yet we still see this path very often."

The study's purpose wasn't to judge the NFL's handling of concussion, but rather to look at how one organization reacted to demands for institutional change. Heinze stressed that findings in no way suggest that the NFL has done all it can to protect players from concussion, only that it has now adopted a leadership role in addressing the problem.

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