NFL Follows NFHS


In light of the Kris Dielman incident – playing with obvious signs of concussion – the NFL met to further the awareness and safety of the players.  If not for the game then for themselves.

The immediate action taken by the NFL is going to have the officials be more aware and implore them to whistle on medical staffs when someone is exhibiting overt signs of concussion;

“We are taking the step on officials to make them alert to obvious concussion symptoms,” Greg Aiello, the NFL’s vice president of public relations, said. “We’re not trying to train the officials to be doctors, but we’re asking them to treat it like other injuries that may make it necessary to stop the game and get them medical attention, either on the field or by getting them off the field.”

Some initially think that the officials are now being put in a position to make medical decisions, they are not.  It was a push back at the high school level two years ago when officials of all sports were asked to do the same thing.  Most of the officials at the high school level do not have the training that NFL officials will have.  It has worked out really well here in high school land, it is only natural to think it should be a good first step for the NFL.

I have been part of events where officials/umpires have sent of a kid for an evaluation.  Most times the official had seen something obvious and was concerned for the athlete and followed the directive.  In all but one case the individual was evaluated to find a possible concussion (see concussion but since I am not a doctor I cannot diagnose).  In the other case the athlete simply cut his mouth but passed the sideline evaluation.

There has even been a case recently here in Illinois where a volleyball team was penalized for an illegal substituion because the player had been removed per the concussion guidelines re-entered (tried to) without going through the proper protocol.  Even the reports of the game had the injured player being “dazed”;

Sims made a diving stab at the ball, redirecting over the net and into an open area on the Bunnies’ side of the floor, where it landed for a point and the Lexington fans erupted with a deafening roar.

Sims also cracked her chin on the floor. Sims was a bit dazed when she got and she was bleeding from the chin.

The unfortunate thing for the player and team was that there was not an athletic trainer or doctor on site/approved prior to the match that could clear the individual, if she was OK.  NFHS rules state that if a player is removed for a possible head (see brain) injury they CANNOT return to play unless cleared by an Athletic Trainer, or Physician (MD/DO).  I did pursue this story via phone calls and found that the girl did in fact exhibit signs and symptoms consistent with concussion, so the officials once again made the right call.

Yes, it does seem silly to have officials making medical decisions on the surface, but they DO IT EVERY WEEK IN EVERY GAME already.  When a player is writhing in pain, they blow the whistle.  When the player is not getting up timely, they blow the whistle.  When a bone is obviously broken, they blow the whistle.  All the NFL is asking is the same the NFHS is asking of high school officials; If you notice OVERT signs of a brain injury seek medical attention.  If it is nothing then they will be evaluated and returned to play.  If not they will be removed, the decision for that is up to the team and its medical staff.  They did this EXACT thing when Mike Vick “got dirt in his eye”.

I find it refreshing that there will be a seemingly “indpendent” group of eyes out there.  I am also VERY confidnet that those officials have seen plenty of examples and will know.  It will be interesting to see how often players are removed going forward; my hope is that there will not be a Kris Dielman incident.

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6 thoughts on “NFL Follows NFHS

  1. Brad Morgan November 2, 2011 / 21:03

    I couldn’t agree more with what you said, and occasionally, the officials are in the best position to notice overt signs of TBI. However, a small correction is needed here. The NFHS rule states that they can return after an evaluation by an “appropriate medical professional.” It is left up to each state to define who is appropriate so that the NFHS rule does not conflict with state laws. It may sound trivial, but ATs cannot do this in every state.

  2. Michael Hopper November 3, 2011 / 00:59

    NFHS may state “appropriate medical professional.” In Illinois, the IHSA defines “appropriate medical professional” with special regard to concussion as the following:

    –An MD/DO licensed to perform medicine in all branches
    –A certified athletic trainer.

  3. Brad Morgan November 3, 2011 / 06:13

    In Ohio it is the same, but I believe Pennsylvania is MD/DO only.

    • BryanATC November 3, 2011 / 14:09

      The PIAA (Pennsylvania) rule about concussion return to play is that once an athlete has exhibited signs and symptoms of a concussion they must first be “evaluated” by an “appropriate medical professional”. Then if a concussion is suspected only a MD or DO may clear that athlete to return the same day to competition. Only for same day participation (if a concussion is present) is clearance by an MD or DO needed.

      So an ATC can determine there is or isn’t a concussion, but once they determine there is they can not return that athlete to participation that day with out a physician clearance.

      • BryanATC November 3, 2011 / 14:13

        Note: It used to be appropriate clearance protocols could be included in standing orders (other than same day return), but with the passage of SB 200 there is some flux with that practice.

      • Brad November 3, 2011 / 19:24

        Thank you for clearing that up. I try to follow more than Ohio and at least be aware of what is going on in neighboring states, but a s quickly as this is changing, it has been difficult.

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