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Medical timeout rule likely won’t increase risk of fake injuries

Last week, the NFL gave the ATC spotter assigned to each game the power to stop the action and remove a player who requires medical attention, if the officials and/or training staffs don’t notice that a player is in distress.

Because any stoppage initiated by the spotter doesn’t result in a charged time out, teams could be tempted to instruct, for example, defensive players who are facing a no-huddle attack to pretend to be disoriented in order to get a break in the action without consequence. But the spotter is a safety net; to avoid a charged time out in the final two minutes of a half or the game, the player would have to fake the injury so that no one on the field notices, but that only the spotter does.

So while the temptation to fake injuries exists, the new medical timeout rule does nothing to make a fake injury even more enticing -- unless game officials decide to stop looking for potentially woozy players and to defer to the spotter. If that happens, with spotters becoming not the last line of defense but first, a greater incentive to fake injuries will arise, since there will be no lost timeout or 10-second runoff if it happens late in a game.

Either way, fake injuries will happen from time to time. For now, it’s unlikely that the new rule will result in more of them.