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Why I Don’t Like Syracuse’s Concussion Policy

I don’t like Syracuse’s concussion policy. It’s my opinion, and I know it’s an unpopular one. But before you scroll down to the comments section and tell me how much of a terrible/moronic/insensitive/etc. person I am, at least hear me out.

As a disclaimer, there are many aspects of Syracuse’s concussion protocol I support. If a player suffers a concussion then that player should not step foot on the field again until he is symptom-free, which Syracuse does a very good job making sure of. Another part of the policy says if a Syracuse player isn’t able to go to class then he isn’t allowed to attend any athletic activity, even as a spectator. Good stuff. What I fail to understand, though, is what’s happening to AJ Long.

After his third documented concussion, AJ Long was medically disqualified from playing football at Syracuse University. Long had no say in the matter, and his Syracuse career is now over.

Why? Because keeping Long off the field will keep him from getting more concussions in the future? That would be great, if it were true. Long has already announced via Twitter that he will transfer from Syracuse and look to find another school to play for. If Long is just going to go play somewhere else, what’s Syracuse saving him from?

Here’s where it gets really concerning. Because Syracuse players know they could be disqualified by any concussion, they aren’t telling coaches when they have concussion-like symptoms.

“I couldn’t even tell you how many (concussions) I possibly had in the last three or four years,” Long said in an interview with syracuse.com. “And I didn’t want to bring them forward because I knew my time would be done.”

So Syracuse’s disqualification policy is not only unsuccessful in keeping players who have had concussions off the field, but it also scares players into playing with concussions instead of getting treatment. Fantastic.

From a recruiting standpoint, a high school player (especially one who has dealt with a concussion before) will probably be less interested in the Orange when he finds out that one hit could get him kicked off the team. Recruiting advantages obviously take a back seat to the health of a player, but it’s still something to think about.

To summarize, Syracuse’s effort to keep players with a history of concussions off the field:

  1. Isn’t keeping players off the field
  2. Keeps players on the field who may have concussions but fear getting kicked off the team
  3. Drives away recruits

I’m failing to see the upside here.

I think most of what Syracuse does in regards to concussions is great, and one of the better systems in the country. I just don’t believe that the decision to end a player’s collegiate career should be made by anyone other than that player. AJ Long isn’t a little kid anymore; he can make decisions for himself. I believe Long understands the dangers of continuing to play football given his history of concussions, and should be able to determine on his own whether or not he plays again.

Posted: Nathan Dickinson

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