HealthDay News — As the National Football League continues to struggle with the health risks posed by concussions, a new HealthDay/Harris Poll finds that vast majorities of Americans say football teams need to do more to protect their players from head injuries.

The poll reveals that the public is now widely aware of the often-debilitating and sometimes deadly health problems facing many current and retired pro players — a controversy that’s the focus of a new Will Smith movie, Concussion, which premieres Christmas Day.

“There’s definitely an increase in concern for players at all levels,” said Dr Sharief Taraman, a pediatric neurologist at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, California. “Although it started with NFL players having these tragic outcomes, it’s trickled down to even the pediatric level.”

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The poll findings also suggest that the more a person knows about the concussion crisis, the more likely he or she wants to see action taken to protect players, Dr Taraman added.

According to the poll, both the general public and pro football fans in particular say football teams at all levels —from the pros to youth leagues — should:

  • Require players who suffer a head injury to take a set amount of time off from playing to recover (83% for the public, including 88% for football fans and 76% for non-fans).
  • Use a standardized test to determine if and when injured players can return to the field (82% for the general public; 88% for football fans and 74% for non-fans).

Americans also think that aggressive tackles that can lead to head injuries should be restricted in youth football (79% for the general public; 84% for football fans and 72% for non-fans).

A smaller majority also supports limiting aggressive tackles in pro football — about 3 out of every 5 people, across the board.

The NFL instituted rules in 2010 designed to limit head injuries, but the public is generally skeptical about whether those rules are working, the poll found.

Only 44% feel the new rules have been effective. However, football fans are more likely than non-fans to say the new rules are working — 57% versus 26%.