Madden Concussions a Teachable Moment, Says EA Sports

EA Sports confirmed it will present concussions as a potential injury in Madden NFL 12, with special in-game commentary and gameplay circumstances that call attention to the seriousness of head injuries in a contact sport and the need to seek appropriate treatment.

The depiction of concussion injuries is being done partly to reflect realism, a spokesman said, but EA Sports acknowledged the game's reach, especially to younger players, was an opportunity to deliver a public service message on the subject.

"We have, for years, talked about how Madden has helped to teach the sport of football to several generations, primarily focusing on its rules and complexities," said EA Sports' Rob Semsey. "This is another opportunity to create awareness of important situations related to the sport, through the game. It makes a lot of sense."

Semsey said dialogue and animations for Madden NFL 12 still are being constructed, but the diagnosis of a concussion would likely come in the form of a sideline report after the player was helped from the field. The commentary team of Gus Johnson and Cris Collinsworth will likely mention the seriousness of the injury, Semsey said. In gameplay, users will have no option of reinserting the player for the remainder of the game. The player's condition will likely be presented in an off-camera way; cinematics involving the treatment or stabilization of a concussed player are not expected.

Madden NFL 11, released August 2010, did not have "concussion" as a potential injury players could suffer. The NFL in 2009 implemented rules forbidding the re-entry of a player to a game if medical staff determined he had suffered a concussion. Madden was unable to accurately depict this at the time, Semsey said, so the injury type was simply taken off the table.

Semsey said EA Sports had been asked by some leading health advocacy organizations to address head trauma in-game, and the publisher found its licensing partners in the NFL and NFL Players Association receptive to the idea. Yesterday, NFLPA senior executive George Atallah praised the move. "Good for EA Sports. Concussed players in NFL Madden prevented from returning to play," Atallah tweeted. "Culture change is important."

Atallah had been attending the World Congress of Sport, where EA Sports president Peter Moore had referred to the new presentation of concussion injuries in remarks given at a panel discussion.

Concussions had been a potential injury in earlier versions of Madden, predating both the 2009 rule change and the in-game feature whereby an player may be reinserted into the game if his injury isn't completely debilitating, Semsey said. As the cumulative effects of concussive head injuries became known, health advocates decried a toughness culture within football that obligated players, often through peer pressure, to play through anything but injuries that limited mobility.