ESPN has just reported that NFL owners approved five new safety rules and one replay rule change including a medical time out for disoriented players.

In a move to protect players better and to prevent an incident like the one during the Super Bowl when New England's Julian Edelman was allowed to remain in the game even after appearing disoriented after a hit by Seattle's Kam Chancellor, a third-party certified athletic trainer will be allowed to call a medical time out. ESPN said that according to the new rule, "a spotter at the game would communicate with the side judge if it's determined a player is showing obvious signs of disorientation or is unstable. Neither team would be charged for a timeout – and teams can only replace the affected payer during this stoppage. The opposition would be able to substitute a player as well to match up."

What does the medical community think about the new medical timeout? Dr. Rob Franks, co-medical director of Jefferson Comprehensive Concussion Center and Rothman Institute sports medicine physician, said in a phone interview, "Certainly anything that enhances the safety of the players is a great choice by the NFL."

He went on to say that the athletic trainers will have a good vantage point to see if a player needs a second look for a concussion, but that the actual decision-making of whether it is a concussion or not should still be made by the medical staff.

Other rule changes reported included:

  • Rules for a peel-back block will now penalize not only those inside the tackle box, but all offensive players.
  • Receivers will now be protected when they are unable to defend themselves from a hit when a pass is intercepted.
  • It is now illegal for a backfield player to chop a defensive player engaged above the waist by another offensive player outside the tight end area.
  • Players are now also prohibited from pushing teammates at the line of scrimmage on punts and field goals.
  • They also approved the ability to review the time left on the game clock at crucial moments like the end of the half, end of the game or in overtime to see if there should be more time allotted.

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