Knowledge comes from formal learning and research, along with first-hand experience. George Visger, who played defensive tackle for the University of Colorado in the 1977 Orange Bowl, and won a Super Bowl championship in 1981 with the San Francisco 49ers, has had multiple head injuries throughout his career in football. With over 20 concussions and 9 emergency brain surgeries; you can say Visger has had first-hand experience dealing with trauma.
Visger is now passionately involved in dealing with the concussion problems that have been plaguing the game of football. He and a group of retired players have proposed a set of rules that they think could make the sport safer for future players. Visger feels “the new proposed rules make a lot of sense and reflect a common sense approach that only players who have first-hand experience on the football field can develop.” These new rules deal with the testing and training of the athlete, in addition to equipment and technique changes.
George Visger’s Concussion Rules to Reduce Traumatic Brain Injuries
- Mandatory baseline cognitive testing before and after each season. Testing to be repeated after each head injury – no return to play unless cognitive function is 100%.
- Mandatory SPECT scans prior to first game of each season and post-season.
- All team doctors and trainers to be formally trained and certified to diagnose and treat concussions. Create standardized protocols for certification.
- Mandatory impact-reducing mouth guards.
- Mandatory hyperbaric oxygen treatment tanks in each stadium, or within close proximity for immediate treatment within four hours.
- Removal of masks and/or helmets (as in rugby).
- If helmets are kept, install impact-registering devices (accelerometers). Set maximum limit threshold per game and per season.
- Start all linemen in two point stance.
- Linebackers must be within 3 yards of the line of scrimmage.
- Eliminate leading with the head when blocking and tackling.
- Teach position blocking.
- Change fundamentals of line play.
- Focus offensive schemes on misdirection, fakes, multiple pitching (as in rugby).
- Automatic first down with three completed passes in a row.
- Focus defensive schemes to stringing out the ball carrier laterally.
- Eliminate trap and crack back blocks.
- Illegal for the running back to dive over line in short yardage situations.
- Pre-season camp protocols for a maximum of three days per week in pads and once per week for in-season.
- Maximum of 2 pre-season games and 16 regular season games.
- Automatic ejection from game and forfeiture of a percentage of salary for hitting another player who is not wearing a helmet.
- Automatic ejection from game and forfeiture of a percentage of salary for striking a player helmet-to-helmet.
- 10-15 yard penalty for a running back leading with his head while hitting the hole.
- 15 yard penalty for a defensive player to submarine tackle with his head.
- 8 game suspension for spearing.
- Team owner forfeits TV rights for one game and head coach suspended if team is cited for 8 or more major penalties over a four game period.
- Coaches to lose a percentage of salary and possible suspension if they override doctor/trainer recommendations to “sit” a player.
- Player incentives for reporting head injuries.
- Players can not lose starting position when returning from head injury.
Obviously these rules are a start—the need for change is evident. The American Academy of Family Physicians estimated that as many as 250,000 concussions occur each year in high school. George Visger is now concerned about disseminating this knowledge and first-hand experience. He feels these rule changes can have an impact on the safety of future players, and further protect the game he loves.
Dave Pear’s Blog (2010, July). Visger rules: recommended changes to NFL rules. Retrieved from: http://www.davepear.com/blog/2010/07/george-visgers-concussion-rules/
This article was edited & re-written by Ric Esposito, DC, MSS, ATC, CSCS with permission from George Visger. Professional thanks to Mr. Visger for giving the Academy the permission to re-write and disseminate his concerns and possible solutions to the concussion problems in football today.
Mr. Visger was a defensive tackle for the University of Colorado when they were Big Eight co-champions in 1976 and went to the Orange Bowl. He also played for the San Francisco 49ers when they won Super Bowl XVI.
Dr. Esposito is the Chair of Sports Medicine at the United States Sports Academy. He has an extensive background in sports medicine, sports chiropractic, and sports performance coaching. He is a chiropractic physician with certifications in athletic training, strength and conditioning, rehabilitation, exercise physiology and sport safety.