A Distraction-Free Exam
In addition to new rules changes meant to improve player health and safety, NFL sidelines will now feature medical examination tents during the upcoming season.
The small, mobile tents can help doctors and trainers immediately evaluate players in private following an injury.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the change at the NFL League Meeting in May.
"It's an opportunity for us to have a better examination because it will ensure privacy for a short period of time, so doctors can go ahead and make the appropriate diagnosis," Goodell said.
The NFL's new Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills also briefed owners on the medical exam tents and other health and safety initiatives during their spring meeting.
"We believe that the sideline medical tent will improve care for our players by increasing privacy and providing the player and the physician with a distraction-free environment to conduct a variety of medical evaluations," said Dr. Sills.
"I have personal experience using the medical tent in sideline coverage of college football games and have seen them gain wide acceptance from all schools where they have been used," he said. "It essentially creates a small, private medical examination room in the midst of the chaos of a sideline in front of tens of thousands of people and a live TV audience."
Tent Training for Sideline Care
The NFL is conducting summer medical training sessions in New York for team physicians, lead team athletic trainers, sideline Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultants, and booth ATC spotters. The training includes sessions on how the tent should be used and incorporated into the updated Game Day Concussion Protocol. A training video was also sent to medical staff for all 32 clubs.
"The medical tent is not meant to replace the locker room evaluation, but rather to provide a more private and structured place to do examinations of a variety of injuries that are currently done on the sidelines," said Dr. Sills.
"We will ask that all sideline concussion exams be done in the tent, but if the initial screening suggests a concussion, then the more extensive concussion evaluation will be done in the locker room just as we have previously done," he said.
From College to the Pros
The University of Alabama first used medical examination tents in 2015.
Today SidelineER tents are used by more than 70 college, high school, and professional football teams. They have also been used for other sports, including gymnastics, basketball, golf, lacrosse, rugby, soccer and track.
These SidelineER tents have been approved by both the NFL Physicians Society and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society.
Each unit takes just a few minutes to assemble and requires no special tools. They have the same dimensions and blue color with no markings. NFL teams will be required to position tents either inside a team's bench area or adjacent to the bench area.
They'll start appearing on sidelines during 2017 preseason games this season, including the Hall of Fame game.
A 21st Century Sideline
The NFL has transformed sidelines to help better protect players. On average, there are 30 healthcare providers at a stadium on game day to provide immediate care.
In conjunction with the NFLPA, the league has added unaffiliated medical personnel and adopted new technology to assist in the identification and review of injuries, with a specific focus on concussions.
Sideline medical technology now includes tablets with specially designed applications for injury diagnosis. Every club's medical staff has instant access to their players' complete medical records via the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system.
Read more about NFL sideline medical care and technology here.