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Third-party doctors needed to assess NFL players: Harvard study

Houston Texans tackle Duane Brown is examined by team medical staff after being injured during the first half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, U.S. January 3, 2016. A new Harvard University study says third-party doctors are needed (instead of doctors under contract with teams) to better assess if players are able to return to play after injury.

Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports

A new Harvard University study says the NFL should stop using doctors paid by the team to determine whether players are able to come back from an injury.

The report from the NFL Players Association-funded Football Players Health Study also recommends a short-term injured reserve for players recovering from a concussion, much like the system that baseball adopted five years ago.

The report issued Thursday includes 76 recommendations addressed to 20 stakeholders in the game — everyone from players and teams to equipment manufacturers and government regulators. The biggest message: Player safety will never be the top priority as long as those involved have competing calls on their loyalty.

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To address the conflict of interest faced by doctors paid by the teams, the report recommends that the league and the union jointly hire the physicians who decide how to treat an injured player and when he can return to the game.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league would study the report and discuss the recommendations with its clubs, medical staff and the union.

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