The NFL's New Plan to Tackle Head Injuries

ABC News' Martha Raddatz interviews Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, the NFL's health and medical advisor.
6:03 | 09/13/15

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Transcript for The NFL's New Plan to Tackle Head Injuries
advisers is becoming more disciplined. Robert is right. As he so often is. You can see signs -- Such a nice crowd here. Thank you very much. He's made a number of interesting subtle statements. I will support my party's nominee, that's becoming a more Co ti Yi Iran nuclear deal on day one. He's thinking about maybe he hasa tshotn wi to is.thnghi But here'e S thorfactt thawe don't know, he's very thin-skinned. And so, while he might be saying to himself and his advisers but the incident erupts into a safety debate. He looked to me like a player who should be on the field? The answer to me is no. Reporter: If the NFL, the intense debate over concussions and head trauma is nothing new. Just this year the league agreeing to pay up $5 million each to retired players, without admitting any wrongdoing, after thousands sued alleging the NFL played down health risks. For the league a potential billion-dollar payout. They could come here to be evaluated. Reporter: And now the league has named cardiologist Dr. Elizabeth nabel, as the NFL's first health and medical adviser, her job requires balancing America's love of the game with the safety of the players. I'm thinking one thing about football after watching it for years is that, what they try to do in the training room is try to get them back out there. Yes, they do. We have a standardized checklist. That all 32 teams must comply with. Reporter: That checklist outline concussion symptoms and ask players to perform simple cognitive tests. Just one of the NFL's many new safety measures. But Dr. Nabel says even more research is needed. They can play a leadership role in understanding the scientific basis for acute and chronic brain injury. Is there a protein that see created by the brain into the blood that indicates injury? How are helmets constructed? Can you use materials that will absorb the shock of contact a bit better? Reporter: Changing the face of the game will mean rule changes. Regarding equipment. Helmets. Tackling. Reporter: I told you my son played high school football, college football, and there were times when I thought, why did I let him do this? These are struggles that we all go through as parents. We want our children to have rich life experiences. We want them to engage in experiences that have deep values and team sports can play that role. And this is where the NFL can play a leadership role and they have a watershed effect on youth sports. Ten years from now, do you think football will be the same as it is today? The same game? Yeah, in ten years the game will be safer. The game is safer now than it's ever been and the league will continue to make steady progress. ESPN's mark fainaru-wada spent years investigating concussions take on NFL players. He joins us now. Mark, I heard the last comment there, I'm wondering what your reaction is, the game is safer than it's ever been before. Well, this certainly is the league's man that lately. It's been interesting to watch the league evolve. From marketing the violence for years to marketing itself around safety. The argument is a loose one to make. You talk to players Ar Ere' wi ss th imie thupco ngovmiie "coussion."sed the trustory of door who died foball-reled brainrauma. Lots of questions about how the NFL will be portrayed in that movie. And with the season now starting, the league is under fire to do more for players' safety, so could that result in some big changes in the game? I spoke to the league's new top medical adviser. It's the fourth quarter of the 2015 super bowl. On football's biggest stage.wi ecde R ei ranjuveli Edelman takes a monstrs hiouto tt head. He Chancellor hit him hard. Reporter: Edelman manages to stagger forward, obviously Dison theed. He's cleared to keep playing. Decisions about it at the NFL level. At the youth level, that's a different question and I think this is part of what America's grappling with it. Bloomberg had a recent study showing 50% of parents said they don't want their kids playing football. We grapple with risk and reward. How much safer can you make a sport where inherently the idea is knocking heads into each other? One thing that struck me about her comments, she said they go through this list of concussions, you have to passed this test before they go back out. We don't know much about the brain. There's no question the science is very much in its infancy. One issue they grapple with, players want to stay on the field and so, there's a tendency -- players will tell you this, to try to figure out ways to beat those tests. Mark, I'm going to have to -- They want to keep playing. Mark, I'm going to have to Test Text1 plain

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