Steelers leading charge into new concussion assessment era of NFL

Jared Wickerham

Joining seven other organizations, the Steelers will be among the first to utilize a revolutionary way of making players' health information available instantly on the sidelines.

Maybe players like Jeff Hartings were able to fudge their way through sideline concussion tests in the past, but the NFL is doing its due diligence to give team doctors and trainers the proper resources to prevent concussions and other injuries from being downplayed on gamedays.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be joining the Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Houston Texans, New York Giants, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers as the first NFL teams to utilize X2 software - which includes the Sideline Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT-3) - through iPads on sidelines during gamedays.

As USA Today noted in a recent article, the new system was a directive of the latest CBA.

Article 40, Section 3 of the collective bargaining agreement reached by the league and players in July 2011 provided for such a system, stating that the league "shall develop and implement an online, 24-hour electronic medical record system within 24 months of the effective date of this Agreement or such longer period as the parties may agree."

The Steelers' head orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Bradley - who is also the chairman of the NFL's medical research committee - sees the new system as a benefit to team trainers and doctors, because it will give the injured player visual confirmation of the injury.

"If we can just sit him down and say, 'Look, here's your balance test and your cognitive skills, your memory, your reaction time.' Now they've got a visual of that, which is a very positive step forward with the players accepting that they have an issue and wanting to get it resolved."

As players' vitals (x-rays, imaging and other data) are entered into and tracked with the iPads, the information will then be logged on-line through a central league database, so a players information will be able to travel with him wherever his career may take him. The instant accessibility will eliminate communication breakdowns as players move from one team to another.

The system was beta tested last year, and if all goes according to plan with the trial teams this season, it will be used league wide in 2014.

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