Jahvid Best: Lions RB's Extended Absence Shows Concussion Standards Are Working

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2012

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 10:  Jahvid Best #44 of the Detroit Lions celebrates his third quarter touchdown while playing the Chicago Bears at Ford Field on October 10, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit won the game 24-13.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It's been exactly one year since Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best played in an NFL game. A history of concussions, including one against the San Francisco 49ers a year ago, has kept him sidelined, and that's a sign of progress as the league continues to fight head injuries.

The latest update on Best's progress was provided by the team on Monday, and it wasn't good. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports he didn't get medical clearance to return, putting his football career in jeopardy.

It's just the latest frustrating moment for Best in his attempt to get back on the field. In situations like this, however, the evidence has become clear over the years that taking the cautious approach is always the right decision.

In the old days, Best would have likely rushed to return, putting himself at even greater risk of suffering an injury with long-term side effects. Players are warriors at heart, willing to put their bodies at risk for the good of the team.

That's especially true for a player like Best, who is key to the Lions offense. The team's high-powered attack isn't nearly as dangerous without him in the backfield, which would have increased the pressure on him to return quickly.

It's why more medical standards were necessary. It ensures players are getting the proper treatment and rest before even considering taking another massive hit on Sunday.

Not all situations are created equally, of course. Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was able to return on Sunday without missing a game after suffering a milder concussion.

There are many factors in play.

One working against Best is a history of head injuries dating back to a serious one in college, which Birkett states caused some teams to remove him from their draft boards when he was coming out of California in 2010.

Knowing that, doctors aren't going to give him clearance unless they are absolutely sure playing again wouldn't put him at any significant risk. Players suffering from their first recorded concussion with no symptoms can pass through quicker.

The system is not perfect. Players will always try to get past it by either not reporting a possible concussion or downplaying the impact it's had on them with hopes of getting back in the lineup right away. That's never going to change.

But there has been a lot of progress in recent years with more players being held back with concussion issues. It's a gradual process, but things are definitely moving in the right direction.

Nobody, including Best, knows when or if the Lions running back will get another taste of NFL action, but if he's able to recover fully and live a symptom-free life because the doctors played it safe, that will be considered a success.

Football fans can talk all they want about possible motives for the league's increased efforts to quell concussion issues, but if the system is working, the motives don't really matter.

Best's situation shows things are changing for the better. Hopefully, the progress continues.