Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is about 1,300 miles away from his offseason stomping grounds at Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. The Chiefs offensive lineman said at training camp late Thursday morning that he’s flipped off his medical switch and redirected focus from his studies to his blocking.
But that doesn’t mean Duvernay-Tardif, who’s entering his fourth professional season, has stopped paying attention to the ever boiling conversation about player safety.
“There (are) a lot of questions out there,” he said. “But I think at the same time the league is taking measures. We’ve seen over the past couple years that the league has put a lot of money into research.”
Going on years now, the NFL has come under fire for its lack of research into concussions. It wasn’t until March 2016 that a league official owned up to the link between hard hits in football and the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Some symptoms of the disease include memory loss, depression and dementia.
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Last week, the league’s deficiency in research was further exacerbated when a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found CTE in the brains of 110 of 111 NFL players examined by neuropathologist Ann McKee.
Duvernay-Tardif has naturally gravitated toward sports medicine while working on his medical degree. He’s kept a close eye on the league’s foray into improvements throughout his time with the Chiefs and is encouraged by the steps taken to keep players safe.
The NFL has invested a heavy chunk of that money into the equipment industry, encouraging companies to design helmets that would reduce the severity of impact. A new model by Seattle-based company Vicis, for instance, will debut this season.
What may be even more encouraging to Duvernay-Tardif, however, is the awareness that studies such as JAMA’s trigger in his teammates and colleagues.
“At the end of the day, it’s about being educated about the symptoms and pulling yourself out of the play and having everybody around you respecting the symptom,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “When you have a headache, it’s as important as when you have a knee injury. When you respect that from day to day, that changes culture and that’s where I think they’re going to move on.”