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NFL reviewing Kris Dielman concussion

Kris Dielman AP

During both Friday afternoon’s PFT Live and Friday night’s NBC SportsTalk on VERSUS (at the tail end of our show-starting “10 things to know” for the coming weekend of NFL action), I devoted some time to the circumstances surrounding the concussion sustained last Sunday by Chargers guard Kris Dielman.  Far more troubling than the fact that Dielman suffered a seizure on the flight home from New York after a loss to the Jets is the fact that Dielman exhibited enough signs of wooziness and disorientation to mandate an immediate evaluation.

For those of you who have the game stored on a DVR or access to NFL.com’s Game Rewind service, fast forward to 12:30 of the fourth quarter.  On that play, Dielman pulls from his left guard position toward the right side of the line, dropping his head to block Jets linebacker Calvin Pace.  Dielman then reels away from the block, takes several steps, and lands on the ground.  He stumbles to his feet, and Jim Nantz of CBS points out that Dielman is “a little shaky and wobbly.”

Umpire Tony Michalek pauses to look at Dielman as he tries to get up.  Michalek puts his whistle in his mouth, apparently considering whether to call an injury timeout.  But then Michalek, possibly after hearing Dielman say that he’s OK, focuses on the task of spotting the ball for the next play.

Dielman waves toward the sideline, and he seems to regain his wits.  So he stays in the game, even though in hindsight he definitely should have been removed.

“We are reviewing it with the club, its medical staff and the NFLPA,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT via email on Friday regarding the situation. “The player was not diagnosed with a concussion until after the game.”

The point, of course, is that he wasn’t diagnosed with a concussion until after the game because he wasn’t checked for a concussion until after the game.  And if the league’s much-publicized (but in some cases possibly ignored) “WHEN IN DOUBT, LEAVE THEM OUT” memo from last month means what it says, players must be removed from play whenever there is “any suspicion” that the player has suffered a concussion.

Guys get bounced around pretty good,” coach Norv Turner said Friday, per the Associated Press.  “It’s tough to see everybody from the sideline, or even from upstairs or a TV screen what a guy’s condition is.  Our guys understand that if they aren’t able to go, they need to get out.  I think it was handled the way we’d try to understand any injury situation.”

Turner, with all due respect, is wrong.  And here’s why.  The CBS cameras showed that Dielman was wobbling and disoriented, even though he successfully pulled himself together, as players who don’t want to exit games often do.  That should have been enough reason to remove him from the field and evaluate him.

But there’s no system for making that happen, even though there should be.  The league, if truly serious about the problem of concussions, must have a safety official in the replay booth, scanning the field, the sidelines, the replays, and all other available evidence for signs that any player may have suffered a head injury.  The safety official should then buzz down to an independent neurologist, who will remove the player from action and keep him out until the player is cleared.

We invite the NFL or anyone else to advance a persuasive argument against this approach.  We have a feeling that we’ll be waiting for a while.

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32 Responses to “NFL reviewing Kris Dielman concussion”
  1. dealer009 says: Oct 29, 2011 12:47 AM

    And at high school games we should have a buzzer and independent neurologist?

  2. skulz fontaine says: Oct 29, 2011 12:52 AM

    Ummm, Mike? Aren’t the NFL players actually ‘gladiators’? You know, paid for the privilege? The privilege of dying for all the world to see. The NFL does NOT give a rat’s *ss if a player suffers serious brain injury. The game is everything.
    The money talks and the injured walk off the field to face another day without a paycheck.

  3. derekjetersmansion says: Oct 29, 2011 12:52 AM

    Obviously, Turner was watching the CBS feed the whole game.

  4. diehardraidersfan says: Oct 29, 2011 1:00 AM

    I’m a Raiders fan but I still hate to see this. Dude’s life and future could be messed up because of this. Hope he gets well and has no lasting effects.

  5. huthuthut says: Oct 29, 2011 1:06 AM

    dealer009 says: Oct 29, 2011 12:47 AM

    And at high school games we should have a buzzer and independent neurologist?
    —————————————
    At high school games you have people who genuinely care about the players more than the game. Also, the players are kids, not adults, and coaches have an extra obligation to keep them healthy.

    If a coach knowingly let a kid who was showing effects of a concussion continue to play they would be horrible examples of humanity. And they would get sued within an inch of their lives.

  6. buckybadger says: Oct 29, 2011 1:06 AM

    @deeler009, if it can be afforded yes. Why not try to make the game as safe as possible. We always had an ambulance at all my games. Why not have someone there who can take a look. Doesn’t have to be a neurologist per say but someone with medical knowledge outside of the trainer.

  7. trbowman says: Oct 29, 2011 1:14 AM

    Hurr hurr, that’s just football! Hurr hurr.

  8. balewsquare says: Oct 29, 2011 1:17 AM

    NHL implemented a strategy where players go to “the dark room,” are evaluated, and can only come back after passing tests. Somehow this is different than your idea, as that league has nowhere near the blatant ignorance of concussion rules as the NFL does.

  9. discosucs2005 says: Oct 29, 2011 1:30 AM

    That’s got to be the scariest thing to have a seizure (or any other serious medical emergency) on a plane. You have no where to go, and there isn’t really anything you can do.

    I know there is a very vocal facet of people that think things like this are just “part of the game” or part of some “trade” the players make for getting paid a lot of money. In some cases, they even have a point. Coal miners don’t get paid as much, but they also have an extremely dangerous job. I think the error in judgement occurs here however. The goal should be that all jobs try as hard as possible to ensure the safety of those working. The fact that there are other dangerous jobs doesn’t mean that it’s ok for the NFL to allow some guy who is wobbling around to stay in the game.

    I hope the people that hear these stories and think “so what. It’s part of the game,” understand that no amount of money is worth your health, and if players, in the heat of the moment can make that calculated decision, than the choice needs to be taken out of their hands, and put into the hands of a medical professional who has no stake in the outcome of the game or the reputation of the player.

  10. atchick says: Oct 29, 2011 1:31 AM

    As a Certified Athletic Trainer, I can add 2 key points here. First, I always err on the side of caution with head injuries…..you have any symptoms you are done for the day until further evaluated in a non-game situation. Granted, I mostly cover high school and we have regulations stricter than the NFL, no doctor on the sideline, & I have to watch everything going on(can’t devote 15 minutes to a full eval when I have to continue to watch plays, treat kids, etc. I am only 1 person). And even in high school they want to play. They feel they can go back in….that is why the Athletic Trainer’s/medical staff have to be overly cautious in head injury cases. ANY SYMPTOMS, even subjective ones, mean you are DONE! Even in the NFL. If you think a high schooler is adament about going back in, imagine how someone who’s paycheck depends on him playing is! They will lie, no matter how they feel.
    Second, after 2 players re-entered the game from the Eagles last year who had concussions, are you surprised these players lie their way back in to the Athletic Trainers? The most disturbing to me of that game was the 1 who stumbled several times, fell down, and yet still went back in the game after that….and the Eagles staff were awarded for being the best Athletic Training staff in the NFL! So those Eagles must be up for Oscars for the act they put on during evals!
    And believe that almost every NFL player will put on the same performance to get back in a game. It is all about earning their almighty $$$, as we learned this summer, even if it risks their health, regardless of what they want in the CBA or the lawsuit.

    As an added point, in my legal aspects of sport I learned that the AT’s were on contract like the players and if you didn’t clear enough to continue in a game you could get fired. Now this is before the crackdown on injuries, so this may be a moot point. Regardless, the players need to remember in game situations, your AT’s are there to be the voice of reason and protect you and help you. We are not the enemy keeping you from your paycheck…sometimes we are actually saving your life!

  11. atchick says: Oct 29, 2011 1:40 AM

    balewsquare says:
    Oct 29, 2011 1:17 AM
    NHL implemented a strategy where players go to “the dark room,” are evaluated, and can only come back after passing tests. Somehow this is different than your idea, as that league has nowhere near the blatant ignorance of concussion rules as the NFL does.

    They have to state the injury is a concussion/head injury. Several of the symptoms are subjective, and a stumble after a particularly long play could be attributed to anaerobic muscle fatigue, cleat stuck in turf, cramp, someone stepping on a foot, etc. Since a concussion/head injury diagnosis makes a player unavailable, in a professional game, it’s a harder call. It is hard to see everything in the mass of 22 bodies, and if I’m evaluating a person, I’m not stopping to watch the replay on the jumbo-tron. My focus is on the athlete, so you have to hope your athletes are honest sometimes. If I were an NFL AT, I’d have 1 assistant watching the replay, and the rest of the on-field staff watching the game/tending to other players, but that’s just me.

  12. 92and94and51and56 says: Oct 29, 2011 1:41 AM

    Now watch that clown Goodell fine Calvin Pace for the hit.

    The lack of independent doctors on the sidelines is the very example of the hypocrisy that’s going on here.

    But hey, better to get everybody’s attention on five figure penalties to distract from the obvious inconsistencies in these nebulous and mysterious league rules.

    You can’t have it both ways guys. The way it stands now, it’s a farce.

  13. commonsenseescapesyou says: Oct 29, 2011 1:46 AM

    There’s actually a pretty big problem with that suggestion: one person shouldn’t be expected to be able to identify every subtle sign from every player on a football field. Cases like this are rare: Dielman was clearly affected. Players often try to “shake it off”, like many non-concussion hits, and get back in the huddle.

    The solution is far easier: put this in the hands of the officials. If an official notices concussion-like symptoms, make it their RESPONSIBILITY to stop the play and get that player to the sideline neurologist.

    You have the officials on the field, watching the play as it is. Use them. Make it part of their job.

  14. jeffro33 says: Oct 29, 2011 2:19 AM

    Thumbs up if you feel NFL is doing its due diligence with player safety.

    Thumbs down if you feel the NFL needs to stop meddling and give these franchises the benefit of the doubt.

  15. maddenboy says: Oct 29, 2011 3:05 AM

    On LA radio today I heard (Kevin Acee, i think) that the Chargers did not have a backup for him. His normal backup was busy playing Left Tackle.

    So they probably erred on the side of . . . winning.

  16. jigwig13 says: Oct 29, 2011 3:08 AM

    Was watching this game seen when he felt back you could def tell something was wrong him…noway he shoulda been allowed to stay in the game..come on even my girl noticed he was woozy and something was wrong with him and shee doesn’t like football…consistency please

  17. broncopsychofanatic says: Oct 29, 2011 3:32 AM

    The NFL and teams can waste all the time and money they want on diagnosing these injuries. It won’t help the players in the long run.

    It has to start by improving the protective equipment. Players are getting bigger, stronger and faster. The equipment is getting lighter and smaller. Look at the pads these guys wear now. Are lineman wearing QB pads now? Shouldepads and helmets should be designed to work as a unit to absorb the impact from these collisions.

  18. fb29 says: Oct 29, 2011 3:40 AM

    Mike I fully support your campaign to institute independent neurologists on the sidelines of games. Accepting debilitating brain injury as part of the sport is ridiculous. I hope to watch the NFL the rest of my life and I hope that the players themselves can enjoy as long and happy a life me.

  19. anhdazman says: Oct 29, 2011 4:00 AM

    I have the NFL GamePass and I just re-watched the sequence where Dielman got hurt. The exact description was pretty much correct.
    “On that play, Dielman pulls from his left guard position toward the right side of the line, dropping his head to block Jets linebacker Calvin Pace. Dielman then reels away from the block, takes several steps, and lands on the ground. He stumbles to his feet, and Jim Nantz of CBS points out that Dielman is “a little shaky and wobbly.”
    But I would really have to say there was no way you could totally tell that Dielman sustained a concussion. It was a hard hit, he stumbled and fell backward. I continued to watch Dielman and he didn’t seem to be “out of it” during the new few series of play. Revis picked off a pass. The next series, Dielman did not display anything out of the ordinary. So I would have to say unless you had someone taking a look of Dielman immediately, there’s no way you could tell he had sustained a concussion.

  20. zappa69 says: Oct 29, 2011 5:14 AM

    Final few minutes of a playoff game and your team is behind by 4. Your quarterback takes a hit that a ref in the “safety booth” decides he may be “woozy”. He stops the game and pulls your quarterback for testing. Your backup comes in and throws a pick 6, game over. Your starting quarterback passes the concussion test and would have been back for the next play but there is no play, game over.

  21. hboc01 says: Oct 29, 2011 5:32 AM

    Isn’t this one of those ideas that’s great on paper, but bad in practice? You could find a player on every play that looks woozy. What do you do, pull everybody out? At some point you have to just accept the fact that this is a violent sport and people will get hurt. Nobody is forcing these players to play football, it is a choice they make and they all know the risks involved with playing this violent activity. The compensation they receive reflects these risks and they choose to accept them. I would assume that nobody wants to see anybody seriously hurt but this IS the path these players choose in life and sometimes shat happens.

  22. joetoronto says: Oct 29, 2011 6:04 AM

    “Our guys understand that if they aren’t able to go, they need to get out.” Norv Turner

    Hey Norv, did you ever think that maybe they can’t “understand if they aren’t able to go”, because they have a concussion?

    You can’t be THAT stupid….can you?

  23. lawyermalloy says: Oct 29, 2011 7:48 AM

    Until the league takes away a team doctor’s EXCLUSIVE diagnoses of concussions and places the decision in the hands of independent doctors, this problem will persist!

  24. tomsd1 says: Oct 29, 2011 7:48 AM

    NB1: The Chargers were down to not having any O linemen left – having stupidly only activated 7 for the game – and their most important concern should be having enough healthy guys up front to protect their main asset – QB Philip Rivers.

    NB2: Why in the world was Dielman not fully evaluated before getting on the plane, as if you fly with concussion – you do risk having a Grand Mal seisure. Yhe cabins are pressurized to about 8,000 feet – and blood flow to the brain (and other parts of the bodies) is not as strong, so if you have a bruised/damaged brain/swelling, whatever – you can be at risk.

  25. hghissatan says: Oct 29, 2011 8:14 AM

    Riddell helmets rated a 1 (lowest) for concussion prevention.

    “NFL and Helmet Maker Riddell Sued by 75 Retired Players Over Concussions”

    “In the agreement, Riddell will see its helmets used throughout 2014. The company has been the official helmet of the NFL since 1989.”

  26. paulsmith107 says: Oct 29, 2011 10:25 AM

    Who cares these are grown men who know the risks of the game. So when a grown man gets his bell rung and says okay well he made a choice. They are all now well educated to concussions and the possible future effects so if they want to throw caution to the wind f them. I feel don’t feel bad for him he is educated and should be a responsible adult who says damn if I stay on this field I may not just affect my future but my wife and kids and everyone who loves me cause I’m brain damaged now

  27. nyhealingpoints says: Oct 29, 2011 10:29 AM

    in regards to “Final few minutes of a playoff game and your team is behind by 4. Your quarterback takes a hit that a ref in the “safety booth” decides he may be “woozy”. He stops the game and pulls your quarterback for testing. Your backup comes in and throws a pick 6, game over. Your starting quarterback passes the concussion test and would have been back for the next play but there is no play, game over.”

    team and refs ignore signs of concussion. Quarterback hands off the ball, and the running back takes it in for the score. the quarterback gets hit again while blocking, and he stammers to the sideline.

    years later he sits in a dark room, depressed, angry, confused. His children cant make any noise because of his headaches so they stay away. And he cant actually remember winning that playoff game. Or enjoy any of the money he made because he can’t function normally.

    But you remember it, and i guess thats all that counts, right?

  28. nahcouldntbethat says: Oct 29, 2011 11:31 AM

    The NFL is toast at this point. Half the country loved cigarettes too. It’s just a matter of time.

  29. Dustin Fink says: Oct 29, 2011 12:09 PM

    They are professionals and know the risks, yes. However brain injury has lasting effects, in fact we do not know the full scope of danger in regards to brain injury.

    You can fix a bone or ligament, even muscle, but you cannot fix a brain; you only get one.

    The idea of the protocol is to keep the players safe, FROM THEMSELVES. This is a mainly subjective injury, when it becomes objective/observational research has told us that it means a much more complicated outcome.

    You can play with a broken bone, it can be fixed, you can play with a torn ACL, it can be fixed, you cannot play with an injured brain, not only because of the lasting effects but the chance of greater damage during the time of injury.

    I believe football should stay the same, a gladiator sport for public consumption, but if you want you favorite gladiators to live long and productive lives after the fact then you must protect them from themselves.

  30. zappa69 says: Oct 29, 2011 12:24 PM

    @nyhealingpoints, I may have worded that wrong. What I meant is “last few minutes of playoff game” and the ref in charge of looking for “woozy” possibly concussed players makes a mistake and pulls any star player causing that team to lose and then find out there was nothing wrong with the player 2 minutes after pulled from the game. To late to fix the mistake, season over. Some refs in the “woozy booth” will be better than others and there is no fixing the “woozy ref” in the “woozy booths” mistake. Just sayin.

  31. stevenfbrackett says: Oct 29, 2011 12:42 PM

    Sadly, I don’t think anything is going to be implemented until and active player dies from his repeated head trauma OR one siezes on live TV.

    Only then will they do the right thing but it will be because of bad PR and lawsuits (potential and actual) rather than actually caring about the players.

    There will be some teams screaming that they simply cannot afford to chip in their share to hire these extra personnel. Total BS. Would you rather pay a few hundred thousand dollars a year for the new guys and better safety equipment or multi-millions in lawsuit settlements that damage your team in more ways than just the checkbook? Because, once one player wins a negligence lawsuit – and one eventually will, there will be an avalanche of suits filed, tons of legal fees and settlement payments, big damage to ‘the brand’ – but that will end eventually and you will be making money hand over fist again much sooner if you can prevent future lawsuits by instituting policies now that actually do protect the player to the best possible extent. Because, really, to the league and the owners, it’s all about the money. Which use of funds is better for the bottom line, guys? Basic Business 101.

  32. dannyabramowitz says: Oct 29, 2011 3:01 PM

    This is the world’s dumbest idea. We already have stoppages in play for numerous commercials, replay reviews, reviews of every touchdown. Now we are going to stop play every time some “safety official” in the booth thinks he sees someone on the field or on the sideline that “may be woozy” to have that player examined. Ridiculous! Can you imagine a 2-minute drive at the end of the game. Your team is hurriedly moving down the field for the winning score. Wait, play is stopped because the “safety official” wants to have the left tackle examined before he can re-enter the game. LET THEM PLAY MIKE, IT’S FOOTBALL, NOT PANSY-BALL. You and people like you on this safety crusade are going to destroy football. I predict that in 20-25 years football will be illegal because it’s too “dangerous” and our lives will be a helluva lot less fun.

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