Health IT rides the bench to improve treatment of NFL injuries

The National Football League has approved a new sideline replay system specifically for injury assessments, and more teams are using tablet computers for the same purpose, according to a recent New York Times article outlining new technology efforts used to preserve the increasingly scrutinized health of players.

In years past, cell phones, radios and monitors were banned from the sidelines because of the perception that they could give teams an unfair advantage. The new system near the bench, however, includes video, digital X-ray results and tablet-assisted concussion examinations.

Sixteen teams this season are using iPads to conduct concussion assessments, a number that is expected to grow to all 32 teams for the 2013 season. The tablets make it easier to compare a player's baseline concussion assessment scores with those post-injury, although a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology challenges that notion, saying that such technology isn't always reliable because some tests don't measure functional and metabolic impairments of the brain. X-rays also can be viewed on the tablets.

For the sideline replay system, a trainer sitting in the press box watches a monitor for injuries that might have been overlooked and to operate replays.

The New York Giants have been exploring technology that will allow players to view their blood-test results on their smartphones. The NFL also hopes to move to a common cloud-based electronic health record system next year, according to Ronnie Barnes, senior vice president for medical services with the Giants. A top-level free agent might undergo multiple X-rays when visiting five or six teams, and a common system could eliminate redundancy and spare the athlete from unnecessary radiation, Barnes explains to the Times.

The electronic system would replace the thick binders of information the teams have used to this point. In a similar effort this past summer, the U.S. Olympic Committee used EHRs in London at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to replace the "pallets of paper" that historically had to be shipped to the games.

To learn more:
- read the Times article


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