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Next Madden to address NFL concussions

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Madden 11 - EA Sports

Historically, injuries haven't really been a big part of video game sports. Showing the real-world effects of the devastating hits from an NFL linebacker tend to remove players from the fantasy environment.

With the next installment of its flagship Madden franchise, however, Electronic Arts plans to emphasize the seriousness of player concussions by preventing in-game players who suffer the head injury from returning to the virtual field.

The changes in Madden reflect real-world rules that the NFL put in place in 2009 amid concern about the long-term damage done to players who continued to play after receiving a concussion. And football officials are cheering the move.

"Good for EA Sports," said George Atallah, assistant executive director of external affairs for the NFL Players Association in a tweet. "Concussed players in NFL Madden prevented from returning to play. Culture change is important."

The Madden series has always walked the line between a detailed simulation and an arcade experience. Two years ago, though, it began to address injuries more seriously, adding 100 realistic injury types and severities that affect how players play (such as hamstring pulls and bruised shoulders) and dumping the older, less realistic ones like "bursitis" and "dehydration."

The NFL takes player injuries serious. Five years ago, before EA secured the exclusive video game rights, the league and Midway faced off over the brutal tackles and hits in that publisher's games.

Midway ultimately walked away from the NFL and went even more over-the-top with the in-game aggressiveness. Via its "Blitz" franchise, the company focused on steroid use and dirty hits. When a player was injured, an X-rayed image would zoom in to show the bone snapping or ligament tearing. Among the injuries players were encouraged to inflict on opponents were fractured kneecaps, ruptured Achilles and torn ACLs.

Midway has since gone out of business, with Warner Bros. buying many of its assets --including Blitz, which currently sits on the sidelines.

Madden 12, meanwhile, could have headaches that have nothing to do with concussions, as a threatened NFL lockout has put the upcoming season in jeopardy. That could dramatically affect the video game's sales.

Regardless of what happens with the NFL, EA has stated that the game will hit stores in August.

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