Reality Check: Madden NFL 12 Will Stress Concussion Safety

The forthcoming Madden NFL 12 video game will show players not only receiving concussions but remaining sidelined for the rest of the game. Additionally, according to The New York Times, game announcers Gus Johnson and Chris Collinsworth will explain that the player was removed because of the seriousness of head injuries. Player animations, however, will not display helmet-to-helmet tackles, hits to the heads of defenseless players or dangerous head-first tackling, according to Phil Frazier, executive producer of Madden 12. He added that the game, scheduled for an August release regardless of an NFL work stoppage, will serve as "a teaching tool."

The game's namesake, Hall of Fame coach and longtime television announcer John Madden, approves of the changes. "Concussions are such a big thing, it has to be a big thing in the video game," Madden told Times reporter Alan Schwarz. "We want that message to be strong."

Last month, the NFL announced that 223 concussions were reported in 333 games during the 2010 season, including preseason and postseason. Also, in the aftermath of former NFL safety Dave Duerson's suicide in February, the league is pushing for all 50 states to adopt legislation to help prevent concussions in young players.

Peter Moore, president of Madden NFL maker EA Sports, said last week at the World Congress of Sports in Miami that it was "wrong" when previous versions of the Madden game would allow concussed players to return to the field the following quarter, according to Moore says "we have an obligation in our industry" to recognize that brain injuries are one of the biggest on-field issues facing all levels of football today.

"I am excited that EA Sports recognized the unique opportunity they have to educate our youngest athlete[s] on concussions," Chris Nowinski, a former Harvard University football player and professional wrestler and now co-director of the Sports Legacy Institute (a leading provider of concussion education, treatment and research), said in a statement to TIME magazine's Techland. "Whether you see Madden as 'just a video game' or not, this is recognition that the concussion crisis is too large to pass on this chance to reach six-year-olds."

But some bloggers have asked if this new degree of realism is necessary in the video game world, a virtual universe in which millions of people kill millions of other people on a daily basis. "How will video game players react when, during a playoff drive, their star player goes out with a game-ending brain injury?" asks Dave Banks, writing for Wired's GeekDad blog. "Will they reboot their game and hope to avoid the random injury the next time? Or will they take it in stride and appreciate the level of realism that EA Sports has brought to this year's version of Madden? And, for that matter, will concussions be an option that players turn off?"

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