Fans who’ve watched the NFL since 2017 may have seen a strange pop-up tent moving around the sidelines of every game. These blue tents are not meant for shade, but for the immediate examination of injured players. Inside are professionals who can deliver quick medical services. A glimpse inside these tents shows just how important they can be for player safety as well as what the shelters can and cannot do.
Why are the blue tents there?
The tents serve a variety of purposes for NFL teams. The fact that they are enclosed is not just to keep fans and media out, but to help players. The tents provide an easier way for players to perform. They have a practical application as well. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, told the Washington Post:
All of our sideline concussion evaluations will occur inside the tents, which we think will not only obviously provide more privacy and dignity for the player, but certainly will eliminate some of the visual and auditory distractions that we want to try to eliminate to get the best concussion evaluation we can.
The pop-up medical tents reduce the complications of some bench-based treatments and tests, and they help crews and players do so in a quick, efficient manner.
What happens inside the medical tents?
These tents are often presented as a sort of secret world. While fans often read lips and comment on injuries, these shelters allow the players and medical professionals to work privately with greater ease. By having the tents so close, yet shut off, it allows everyone to work without distraction without having to go to the locker room.
The tents do not stay in one place. Instead, a player sits on a medical bench and the tent is brought to them. Once the medical professional arrives, they zip up the tent and perform needed tests as they evaluate the player. From there, they decide whether the player can return to action or if they need to go back to the locker room for further treatment.
Concerning potential concussions, this is where Maddocks questions are asked, which include questions about the player and their surroundings, common knowledge, and short-term memory tests. By excluding the outside world, a player can concentrate as they answer, which helps prevent false outcomes.
The pop-up medical tents’ benefits and limits
Upon the implementation of these tents, the NFL ensured that all of its trainers and medical staff were trained rigorously about not only proper care inside the tent but the knowledge of what the tent can and cannot do. Severe injuries cannot be treated inside the tent, but professionals can complete initial tests and observations.
The most effective medical treatment still occurs in the locker room, but for those injuries that are not severe, this lets the players be quickly evaluated without a long walk or ride to the locker room. If they’re cleared to play, they can get right back into the game. Think of the tent not as a medical facility, but as an observation room.
Although the NFL may have a long way to go when it comes to safety protocol and injuries, it has implemented some changes, like the tent, which cut back on life-threatening issues due to improper care or facilities. The tents are far from perfect, but every new precaution the NFL takes for player safety is a welcome one.