Dr. Scott A. Rodeo, Sports Medicine Surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery, is the head team physician for the Giants, a role he assumed in 2015 after having been associate team physician since 2000. Dr. Rodeo works closely with Ronnie Barnes, Vice President of Medical Services, in helping to organize and implement a comprehensive medical team. In this Q&A, Dr. Rodeo discusses the new safety-related rule changes for the 2017 season and what they mean for players and the game.
Q: Which new rule change for the 2017 season do you think will have the biggest impact in improving protections for players?
I would say the rule that extends defenseless player protection to a receiver running a pass route.
Q: The NFL looks to make rules changes related to player safety every year. How important is this evaluation process that continues to come up with ways to make the game safer?
I think this ongoing, yearly evaluation process is critical. I think that it demonstrates a proactive approach on the part of the league and the NFL Competition Committee. I think that the league and the NFL Team Physicians Society carefully looks at the types of injuries that occur each year, as well as injury trends over time. They then use this analysis to propose rules changes that can increase safety. In this way, the league responds to any evolving patterns in injury type, injury frequency, etc.
Q: How does a health and safety-related rule change first get brought up? Is it a recommendation from players, athletic trainers, or medical professionals?
I think that this stems from film study of injuries that occur, as well as analysis of injury trends. Some of us in the NFL Team Physician Society analyze data and publish papers using the NFL Injury Surveillance System data. This helps to identify types of injuries, trends, etc., and this can inform proposed rules changes to increase health and safety.
Q: How has medical technology made an impact in evaluating injuries and discovering new ways to prevent them?
I would say that the video review has helped us to learn more about specific mechanisms of injury. We can combine this information with the ever-increasing sensitivity of evaluation using MRI. MRI shows the tissue level injury, and this can then be combined with our analysis of mechanism of injury from the video review.
I would also say that we have benefited from GPS technology that provides information about training volume, which informs our ability to help improve recovery protocols and avoid overuse injury.
Q: What conversations go on between medical professionals and the players/coaches about safety-related rule changes?
I think that specifics as far as playing technique (tackling, blocking, etc.) come, of course, from coaches and not physicians. I think that where physicians can have an impact is working with the athletic training staff and strength and conditioning staff to make recommendations regarding off-season strength and conditioning programs, recovery, nutrition, etc.
Q: What can NFL players do on their own to lower their risk of injury on the field?
One of the most effective ways to minimize risk of injury is to establish comprehensive muscle strength, muscle endurance, and flexibility. Cardiovascular conditioning is also helpful. In addition to strengthening the extremities, strengthening of the "core" muscles (abdominal, pelvic, low back, hip) is critical. Other facets of a comprehensive conditioning and preparation program include proper nutrition, appropriate recovery, sleep, etc.
Q: Medical examination tents on the sideline are new for this season. What are your thoughts and what are the potential benefits?
The tents allow the athlete to have some degree of privacy during the examination. The tent also provides for a somewhat quieter environment free from distractions. This is our first year using the tents so we will carefully assess the practicality over the course of the season.