In this Q&A with The Sport Update, NFL Hall of Fame Cornerback Michael Haynes discusses the issue of concussions and other safety problems in professional football. Haynes is currently the Chairman of the NFL Alumni’s Health and Wellness Committee.

UPDATE: Why should the NFL use the King-Devick Test to catch concussions?

HAYNES: The King-Devick Test has shown to be a quick and accurate objective method to determine if an athlete should be removed from play due to head trauma.

UPDATE: What do you think the likelihood of the NFL teams implementing the test?

HAYNES: The NFL is doing their due diligence and reviewing it but I think that it’s likely that they will eventually use it in combination with other tests because studies will continue to be published regarding its accuracy and reliability.

UPDATE: If they do what will it mean to all the other sports at professional and amateur levels?

HAYNES: The King-Devick Test provides doctors, athletic trainers, coaches, and even parents, with an easy tool to determine if the athlete should be removed from play to prevent a second head injury, which we now know can have more serious complications if the brain has not yet healed from the first concussion.

UPDATE: If the test had been used widely in the NFL during your career with the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders, or even in the past few seasons when we became more aware of the danger of concussions, what do you think the effect would have been?

HAYNES: I’m sure several of the protocols being implemented today would have protected guys from sustaining multiple head injuries during their careers.

UPDATE: You have other initiatives you are supporting to make the game safer. What are they?

I’m advocating for pro football fields to be wider. The current field size doesn’t consider the increased size and speed of today’s players. Youth football games are played on the same size field as the pros. Others sports, such as baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, etc., give consideration to the difference in size, strength, and advanced technology of pro athletes.  Baseball fields, basketball courts, soccer fields, and other sports for the professional are played on different size fields.

Also, I support bigger rosters. When youth and professional athletes receive a brain injury, they will need to heal or they risk sustaining a more serious injury before returning to practice or play. A small roster size may encourage coaches and trainers to take chances.

UPDATE: There are other things, too, right?

Yes, I support mandates for:

  • properly fitted helmets and other equipment;
  • custom fit mouth-guards that provide mandibular joint protection; 
  • objective sideline protocols to determine if a concussion occurred;
  • every player, coach, and parent should be educated to recognize symptoms of a concussions and know what to do if one occurs;
  • the elimination of devastating hits to the head when a player is in a defenseless position.