CFL introduces new safety measures to limit head contact, prepare for medical emergencies

Photo courtesy: Toronto Argonauts/Handout

The CFL and its medical committee have introduced a number of new several health and safety measures for the 2023 season. These new measures will be put in place during training camps, which opened league-wide on Sunday.

Guardian caps (pictured) will be worn by all running back, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, and linebackers during training camps as well as all contact practices during the regular season. Players at other positions have the option of wearing the extra protection but are not required to do so.

Guardian caps are padded shells that can be installed to the outside of player helmets. According to research, the device reduces the severity of impact by at least 10 percent when worn by one player and at least 20 percent when worn by both players.

Once the season starts, all teams will have collapsible tents on the bench for medical assessments. The tents create a distraction-free environment to help those performing the examinations while also providing privacy for players. These tents will be visible on both benches at each game and will only be raised when needed.

Pre-game medical meetings will now include security and other key staff members who, in the event of a medical emergency, will be able to help expedite care for affected player(s).

Staff from all nine teams completed additional professional development in the areas of emergency medical response and in-air emergency preparedness training. Staff working in strength and conditioning or physical performance capacities are also now required to have the strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) designation offered by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

Finally, ​the CFL is involved in several ongoing and upcoming scientific research studies with Dalhousie University, Concordia University, McGill University, University of Manitoba, University of Alberta, University of Victoria, and University of British Columbia. These studies cover the effective use of various equipment and technologies in the prevention and rehabilitation of injury, injury surveillance, and correlation analyses with performance optimization.

“Our players are our game’s greatest ambassadors, both on and off the field,” said CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie in a statement. “We must continue to explore new equipment, technology and best practices to help ensure they are physically and emotionally able to have long and successful careers.

“As athletes evolve through better nutrition, training regimens and a clearer understanding of the human body, so too will our game. As a league, we must embrace that evolution and work with our players to create an exciting and competitive, but safe, football environment.”

It is likely that a number of these changes were made following an incident that took place in the NFL this past season when Buffalo Bills’ defensive back Damar Hamlin collapsed in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He suffered an episode of commotio cordis, which occurs when cardiac rhythm is disrupted by a strike to the chest.

Hamlin was administered CPR and defibrillator on the field without which he would not have survived. He spent nine days in the hospital and has since been cleared to return to the field.