In conjunction with the 2011 Scouting Combine, the NFL will introduce a new tool for in-game concussion assessment.
“The new tool, to be used on sidelines, combines a symptom checklist, a limited neurologic examination including a cognitive evaluation, and a balance assessment,” the league said in a release. “It uses as a foundation many components of the sideline tool developed by the Concussion in Sport group that most recently met in Zurich in ’08. It was developed by the NFL Head, Neck, and Spine Committee, with input from the NFL team physicians and athletic trainers and their professional societies.”
Information regarding the new procedures will be revealed publicly on Friday, February 25, in a press conference at Lucas Oil Stadium.
We applaud any improvements in diagnosing (and, ideally, preventing) concussions, but we continue to believe that the league needs to do more to spot players who possibly have suffered a brain injury, so that they can then be assessed for a possible concussion.
The haunting Week One images of Eagles linebacker Stewart Bradley stumbling off the field followed by his return to the game without full neurological assessment highlights a major flaw in the current protocol. If the team’s doctors already are assessing one player (at the time of Bradley’s concussion, Kevin Kolb was being checked out), another player who has endured a concussion could slip through the cracks.
The NFL should assign to every game one or more safety officials who are charged with spotting any behaviors that would suggest a possible concussion. Once a player is flagged as possibly being concussed, he would not be permitted to return to the game until it is confirmed that he did not suffer a concussion.
It may not be a perfect solution, but it would have protected Stewart Bradley against further injury in the first game of last season.