How Does NFL Protocol Work? UPDATED

There have been examples of players seemingly being “dazed” by hits and going to the sideline, then returning to play a very short time later.  The most recent example is what happened yesterday in Washington as Mike Vick took a shot to the back of the head and then was motionless for a short time.  Only to rise rather “unsteadily” to be held up by players from both teams as those around him waived on medical attention for him.  You can see in the video below (certain to be pulled so see it quickly) at the 1:15 mark.

The official report was “dirt in the eye” is what caused him to be removed from the game for a short while.  Although it is tough to see through his visor (see sarcasm) while standing there, it appears dirt and grass was being removed from the outside of his helmet.  And this comment from LaRon Landry who tackled Vick on that play;

“I thought he was out myself, just figured, ‘OK, he’s out of there.’” Landry said. “But he was back in there, he’s a fighter.”

Vick has not been the only one, as Marques Colston of the Saints had a similar situation occur last week;

A scary scene occurred in the second quarter of the New Orleans Saints’ win against the Carolina Panthers last week. Marques Colston was kneed in the helmet at the end of an incomplete pass from Drew Brees. After the violent collision, he laid on the ground for a couple of seconds, gingerly rose to his feet, then motioned to the bench for a substitute as he woozily weaved to the sideline. Fox-TV cameras showed Colston trying to shake out the cobwebs on the sideline as he fended off members of the Saints’ medical staff.

Regardless with the heightened awareness about concussion the NFL has been pushing when situations like this occur they [League and teams] are open to questions.  According to NFL Policy if a player is suspected of sustaining a head injury they are to be removed and tested using the baseline tests the NFL mandated.  If teams fail to do so they would be in violation according to Chris Nowinski;

“A confused player is in no position to make that decision because he’s had a brain injury,” said Chris Nowinski, co-founder and president of the Sports Legacy Institute and a co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine. “It’s completely clear, if you’ve suffered a brain injury you’re not in a position to make a decision on your long-term health.”

It’s unclear if Colston was administered the NFL sideline concussion exam before being allowed to re-enter the game. If he wasn’t, Nowinski said the Saints were in violation of league protocol.

The exam consists of a battery of simple tests to evaluate concentration, basic thinking skills and balance. It’s supposed to be given on the field, within a 6- to 8-minute window. The results are then matched against the player’s score from the same test in preseason under healthy conditions. If the difference in performance exceeds a certain threshold, the player is automatically held out of the game.

At some point common sense needs to take hold.  If a player exhibits signs of a head injury then take the 4-8 minutes to do the test.  If he passes the test then let him go, but under no circumstances should teams, coaches, and medical professionals bend to the wishes and self diagnosis of the player in those situations.  If it is easy for viewers to see the signs of a concussion – we should know them well because of the awareness – then people on the team should report that to the athletic trainers/medical teams and let the protocol take over.

UPDATE: Will Carroll of Sports Illustrated wrote about the Vick incident today, a very well written and professionally critical article.  I do like the idea of rotating medical staff that are employed by someone other than the team to make such decisions, in fact you could have a doctor and athletic trainer on the sidelines (hey I will volunteer for that job, but only if you want the right and prudent decision). You can read the artilce HERE, but the last paragraph sums it all up;

The NFL has had no response to this or several other incidents like this one. The policy is clear, but the results are not. If the players on the field and the announcer in the stands all thought that Vick had symptoms of a concussion, it has to make one wonder what the medical staff saw that took it the other way. Perhaps it was dirt in Vick’s eyes, but it’s more likely that they were just blowing smoke in ours.

5 thoughts on “How Does NFL Protocol Work? UPDATED

  1. Joe Bloggs October 17, 2011 / 11:46

    Simple. If the coach or owner wants the guy on the field, it is a heck injury, neck injury or dirt in the eye. There is no policy. Independent neuological evaluation, PLEASE.

    Many people who read the board could diagnos multiple lilkely concussions on Saturday or Sunday by watching games.

    Vick is going to have to leave in a box for the policy to change in Philly.

    • John Gonoude October 17, 2011 / 15:47

      As someone who has spoken in support of the Pennsylvania concussion management bill first proposed by State Representative Tim Briggs, I am embarrassed. In June of 2010, I gave a speech at Lincoln Financial Field with the likes of Rick Burkholder, the head athletic trainer of the Philadelphia Eagles, and watched him and the Eagles publicly endorse and sponsor such legislation. But in viewing how Kevin Kolb and Stewart Bradley were handled a year ago, and in seeing how Michael Vick has been treated this season, I can only say that I am embarrassed.

      What kind of message does the NFL think it is sending to its viewers, but more specifically, and more importantly, the youth athletes and programs? It is a disgrace to all efforts and compromises the very laws presented to be abided by the very ones we seek to protect, short-term and long-term. I could go on and on about this, but just wanted to share my frustration with how the Philadelphia Eagles have portrayed this injury.

      Where is the line drawn? And why aren’t more questions being asked? I have never been a fan of how the NFL has addressed this issue, nor do I see that stance changing any time soon. The ambiguosity of the term “concussion” has diluted itself to that of other titles, education efforts by the NFL are minimal, and research funding comes off almost as if they are saying “hush for a while, we’re trying to get people back into football again after the lockout… here’s some money, keep yourselves busy and we’ll deal with you later…”

      • Dustin Fink October 17, 2011 / 16:19

        Very truthful and accurate response in my mind John. Thanks! And thanks for the work you do for The Concussion Blog.

      • Joe Bloggs October 18, 2011 / 09:00

        Great post. Sums it up in three paragraphs. The NFL is making a mockery of this at the expense of the health of its players and impressionable children.

  2. Mark October 19, 2011 / 05:48

    One aspect of some injury being overlooked, not the Patriots.

    the following was found on the internet

    Jaw and ear discomfort might be brought on on account of an injury to the temporomandibular joint. A harm to the temporomandibular joints could possibly be brought on as a result of a head injury. Should you have lately met with an accident or had a fall that brought on a head injury, you may wind up having a jaw and ear discomfort. In some injuries, the impact is such that the head snaps and also the neck muscles do not actually get a opportunity to relax. Under these circumstances, there might be tearing with the muscles as well as the supporting ligaments inside the temporomandibular joints. This could trigger jaw discomfort and that could give rise to ear discomfort at the same time. The injury could also result from a blow to the jaw from a fight. This can push the jaw back and tear the restraining ligaments.

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