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League needs to treat “concussion-like symptoms” like concussions

Hines Ward AP

The Steelers have become the masters of the concussion loophole.  Last year, when receiver Hines Ward suffered a concussion during a Sunday night game on NBC, the Steelers said he had a neck injury, and the Steelers allowed him to stand on the sidelines in pads for the rest of the game.

That incident contributed to the NFL’s insistence in 2011 that players with concussions be removed from the playing area.

And so the Steelers apparently have found another loophole.

This year, they use the term “concussion-like symptoms” when a player has suffered an apparent concussion.  They did it several weeks ago with safety Troy Polamalu, and they did it last night with Ward, after a helmet-to-helmet hit from Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis that should have drawn a flag.

Of course, the modified “C” word was used only after the Steelers claimed during the game that Ward had a stinger.  (Or was it “stinger-like symptoms”?)

As explained in today’s Monday 1o-pack, the Jets demonstrated remarkable transparency in the wake of the decision to put tight end Dustin Keller back into Sunday’s game.  The Steelers, on the other hand, refused to elaborate on their apparent gamesmanship regarding one of the most critical issues confronting the sport.

“We review these matters carefully each week,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told PFT by email this morning when asked about the ability of teams to use the term “concussion-like symptoms” in possible circumvention of the concussion diagnosis.  “That is as far as I can carry the discussion right now.”

Here’s hoping that the NFL tells the Steelers and every other team that there’s no difference between “concussion-like symptoms” and a concussion, that the league anticipates and pre-emptively closes any new loopholes the Steelers may try to craft, and that the NFL expands its injury-reporting obligations to require the affirmative disclosure of all pertinent information regarding the steps that were taken to determine whether a player did, or did not, suffer a concussion.  Through such openness, teams will feel less able to take liberties.  Also, those who organize and participate in the lower levels of football will be constantly aware that concussions need to be taken seriously, and that the assessment of players who have suffered significant blows to the head should be handled with secrecy or game strategy in mind.

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48 Responses to “League needs to treat “concussion-like symptoms” like concussions”
  1. AlanSaysYo says: Nov 7, 2011 10:49 AM

    This is all well and good, but that idea you have in your head about automatic review of helmet to helmet hits is nonsense.

  2. kingmiedus says: Nov 7, 2011 11:00 AM

    The whole Ray Lewis helmet-to-helmet thing seems like it was incidental (which I don’t think should be a penalty). Ward’s neck / head were bent downward, to the point where his head was in a position where his chest normally would be. I assume the NFL will fine Lewis, but I think the fines are a little ridiculous and should only be when it is an intended hit to the head, not where the receivers body changed position thus causing the helmet-to-helmet contact.

  3. peytonwantsaflag says: Nov 7, 2011 11:01 AM

    There was no strategic or competitive reason for Ward to stay on the field last night, everyone and ther mother knew he was concussed and wasn’t returning. To again NOT follow league protocol was simply ANOTHER eff-u to the league by the steelers and needs to be addressed.

  4. nebster21 says: Nov 7, 2011 11:03 AM

    Never going to happen. Especially when the player that takes over for the concussion symptom makes a mistake.

  5. vacman9100 says: Nov 7, 2011 11:04 AM

    Without any real penalty… why should team really care about the rules.
    Make teams lose drafts picks for bending or braking the concussion rule. that will be the only way teams will follow it.

  6. kh221 says: Nov 7, 2011 11:04 AM

    There are already enough disruptions between Coach’s challenges and booth reviews on scoring plays. Now you want to add a review for helmet to helmet hits… how about we just let them play football.

  7. daveyboy46 says: Nov 7, 2011 11:04 AM

    I love all this crying about Hines (dirtiest player in the NFL) Ward!! All the dirty hits he has put on people, he deserves some of his own medicine!!

  8. steellady says: Nov 7, 2011 11:05 AM

    Hines NEVER reentered the game so whats the big deal?

    The real story here should be WHY WASNT RAY PENALIZED..NOT ONLY WAS IT A HELMET TO HELMET HIT ..IT WAS ON A DEFENSELESS WR..ARE THOSE ONLY CALLS MADE AGAINST OUR D?
    How do you miss a hit in the middle of the field?

    This isnt just about Hines or the Steelers.. ive seen <MANY hits to the head in other games not called..Maybe its time the refs start getting reprimanded WEEKLY…

  9. steellady says: Nov 7, 2011 11:07 AM

    kingmiedus says: Nov 7, 2011 11:00 AM

    The whole Ray Lewis helmet-to-helmet thing seems like it was incidental (which I don’t think should be a penalty). Ward’s neck / head were bent downward, to the point where his head was in a position where his chest normally would be. I assume the NFL will fine Lewis, but I think the fines are a little ridiculous and should only be when it is an intended hit to the head, not where the receivers body changed position thus causing the helmet-to-helmet contact.

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!! THERE IS NO INCIDENTAL HELMET TO HELMET HITS…How many times have we seen a WR change his direction or lower his head n take a hit from oo lets say Harrison is in already IN MOTION when the WR moves..Harrison got the fines penalized AND CALLED DIRTY.

    Stop pretending the refs didnt blow this call.

  10. liquid4012 says: Nov 7, 2011 11:07 AM

    So your complaint boils down to having the player standing on the sideline rather than leave the field? neither Ward nor Polamalu went back into the game, so why is this even an issue?

    Good job praising the jets for putting an obviously concussed player back on the field while in the same breath condemn the Steelers for keeping their players on the sideline.

  11. steelbydesign says: Nov 7, 2011 11:10 AM

    WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARES

  12. summae says: Nov 7, 2011 11:10 AM

    “…significant blows to the head should ‘Not’ be handled with secrecy…”

  13. bombacim says: Nov 7, 2011 11:16 AM

    This needs to be addressed now by the league and flow down through the college and even high school ranks. Ray Lewis went out to hit him high for a highlight reel bit. The problem with these players today is that they do not know how to tackle. Ray Lewis was not trying to tackle, (which is what we call this level of football) he was trying to deliver the HIT. Not once did he try to wrap his arms and tackle the defenseless wide reciever around his mid-section. As a coach this is what I hate about the NFL. Players like Lews, Merriweather, and Clarke use thier speed and mass to try to take players out instead of playing clean.

    On another note. Rothlesburger needs to take a lesson from Aaron Rodgers and not lead his wr’s into that danger zone where the wr is defenseless.

  14. steviemo says: Nov 7, 2011 11:20 AM

    My favorite part of the broadcast last night was when they told us the Steelers and Ravens don’t care about the wimpy rule changes and were going to play the game the way they’re always played the game. The hitting was AWESOME.

    Wimps go home!

    I truly don’t know what a DB running a 4.4 forty is supposed to do when a receiver running a 4.4 forty is coming right at him. These rules were all made by slow white guys who never played the game, obviously.

  15. bmorecofc says: Nov 7, 2011 11:24 AM

    Is it true that under the new CBA any player that is diagnosed with 2nd concussion during the course of the season has to sit out for 2 games? If so, it’s pretty clear why the Steelers wouldn’t diagnose his obvious concussion as a concussion.

    In order to prevent the loopholes, why not have an independent doctor at each game that is employed by the NFL to evaluate players and situations like this. (Instead of requiring officials to look for it, have the independent dr.)

    As long as the team doctor is being payed by the team, (s)he will continue to evaluate them on the sole purpose of what is best for the team.

  16. folkcrusader says: Nov 7, 2011 11:27 AM

    The Steelers are an example of an organization in which cheating has become endemic. They cheat when playing it straight is better. The way their players are coached to hold and benefit from illegal blocks is a primary example of this.

  17. bravin4evr says: Nov 7, 2011 11:34 AM

    Hate to see Cheap Shot Ward injured; but good to see him get his clock cleaned even though it did look to be helmet to helmet! He did get a chance to see it coming, unlike when he blindsides other players!!!!!

  18. marvsleezy says: Nov 7, 2011 11:36 AM

    Heres the thing though – Concussion like symptoms and an actual concussion are not the same thing.

    If you want to argue that you should take the same precautions either way, then yes, that is smart.

    BUT, there are guys who have concussion like symptoms that after it is all said and done, are never diagnosed with a concussion.

    Its not like a broken leg, where its either broken or it isnt. Head injuries are more like a scale of 1 – 10.

  19. yzguy431 says: Nov 7, 2011 11:45 AM

    anyone remember football?

  20. jpb12 says: Nov 7, 2011 11:50 AM

    NY Jets let Keller back in the game after he had concussion like symptoms.

  21. ampatsisahypocrite says: Nov 7, 2011 11:53 AM

    What they need to do is fine Ray Lewis — seriously, is there anyone besides the refs who didn’t see such a blatant obvious helmet-to-helmet?

  22. boombabymac says: Nov 7, 2011 11:56 AM

    Steelers staff giving weather forecast: “A 70% of rain-like conditions.”
    Hines got a thumping and was concussed as a consequence. Seems everyone but the coaching staff understood that. Why be secretive about the obvious? Planning a career in politics maybe. . . ?
    Hard to deny Lewis not leading with his helmet. Hines was going to ground before the hit. Lewis could have pulled up or changed his approach. Polamalu did a last second change when he nearly blindsided Flacco. Intentional helmet to helmet? No. More reaction than intent. Reaction can be modified through training. Intentional = mean and nasty with intent to harm=Dunta Robinson, (Maybe James Harrison.)

  23. screamingsheep69 says: Nov 7, 2011 12:08 PM

    “who am I?” “Your the coach” “who are you?” “I’m Batman”

  24. holeinone09 says: Nov 7, 2011 12:17 PM

    Not sure why this has anything to do with what the Steelers allegedly did or did not call this, since it was obvious the entire time that Ward was not going back into the game, so end of discussion on that.

    I agree with some commenters above that the main issue is the refs didn’t call a penalty on Lewis’ obvious helmet to helmet to hit (whether intentional or not, it was clearly illegal), but yet called a penalty on Clark’s hit that was not helmet to helmet, no so far removed from the WR not catching the ball.

    Finally, how can people say they were happy to see Ward (or anybody) get hit like that? Is football so important to your meager life that you hope people get injured? You got problems.

  25. sj39 says: Nov 7, 2011 12:43 PM

    I agree with bombacim, most of these guys not only don’t try to tackle I’m not sure they even know how to lead with the shoulder, wrap up with your arms and tackle the guy. They just go for the knockout hit. If anyone thinks “that is how the game is meant to be played” they are badly mistaken.

  26. rubbernilly says: Nov 7, 2011 12:43 PM

    Looks like Voldemort (he who shall not be named) has a new torch. Let’s just hope he doesn’t burn down the whole game to smoke out a few muggles.

  27. Topher says: Nov 7, 2011 12:46 PM

    When the Colts used “concussion-like symptoms” to describe the injury to Kerry Collins what they meant was “without ability.”

  28. steelerdynasty2010 says: Nov 7, 2011 12:49 PM

    a headache is a concussion-like symptom. should everyone with a headache be treated for a concussion and held out of the game? let these grown men be in charge of their own well-being. stop trying to legislate everything. the league has put these protocols in place, and if people make deliberate attempts to circumvent those protocols, then it’s on them. doesnt big brother have enough to worry about?

  29. steelerdynasty2010 says: Nov 7, 2011 12:50 PM

    a headache is a concussion-like symptom. should everyone with a headache be treated for a concussion and held out of the game? let these grown men be in charge of their own well-being. stop trying to legislate everything. the league has put these protocols in place, and if people make deliberate attempts to circumvent those protocols, then it’s on them. doesnt big brother have enough to worry about?

  30. tqaztec says: Nov 7, 2011 1:04 PM

    Mike, could you explore if the league is doing anything to combat the concussions offensive and defensive linemen? It seems the most disturbing effects of concussions on these players later in life is the real story. This is where the most helmet to helmet contact is occurring.

  31. number20pick6 says: Nov 7, 2011 1:13 PM

    It couldn’t have happened to a better person! And I don’t want to see players get hurt, just him. Very deserved!! Also, Clark’s hit was definitely helmet to helmet. Rays was too, obviously. Quit crying steeler fans, I thought only raven fans complained about the refs…

  32. steellady says: Nov 7, 2011 1:22 PM

    number20pick6 says: Nov 7, 2011 1:13 PM

    It couldn’t have happened to a better person! And I don’t want to see players get hurt, just him. Very deserved!! Also, Clark’s hit was definitely helmet to helmet. Rays was too, obviously. Quit crying steeler fans, I thought only raven fans complained about the refs…

    THATS THE WHOLE POINT.. IF RAY CAN DO IT WHY CANT OTHERS? THE SAME THINGS U SAY ABOUT HINES A LITTLE OLE WR ARE THE SAME THINGS U CONDONE BY DEFENDER.

    RAYS LEG GETTING SNAPPED IN HALF WOULD BE SWEET TOO.

  33. steellady says: Nov 7, 2011 1:23 PM

    I WOULD BET IF HARRISON DID THIS YALL WOULD BE CRYING

  34. nevin999 says: Nov 7, 2011 1:39 PM

    Concussion-like symptoms is plain English and Ward did not return to the game, so what is the problem? Should Tomlin clear his players pending your blogs approval?

  35. amanitoomerisgod says: Nov 7, 2011 1:58 PM

    Well, something definitely needs to be done about the inconsistency in the calling. They have to make these fouls reviewable. I write about it on my site, onthingz-dot-com.

  36. PCa Survivor says: Nov 7, 2011 2:07 PM

    At least he didn’t use a cell phone to call his family to tell them he was OK

  37. formyministy says: Nov 7, 2011 2:23 PM

    the only difference i see is that one team put the player back in but answered all of your questions about it, and the other held the player out but wouldn’t give your blog any special scoop. and i’m a lions fan.

  38. contract says: Nov 7, 2011 3:02 PM

    How about this … how about teams simply say nothing about the status of players during the game?

  39. citizenstrange says: Nov 7, 2011 3:50 PM

    Ray Lewis should be suspended for a game without pay. At least.

    The penalty on Lewis the refs “missed” would have set the Steelers up for a TD.

    Nice touch refs, reviewing the play and ruling no catch ….. while turning a blind eye to the blantantly dirty, cheap, ILLEGAL helmet to helmet, launch and hit. I really have to commend you on a total screw up. You left no stone unturned. You just did everything you could to get everything 100% wrong and hand the Ravens a win.

    But of course Goodell will act like it was no big deal since it happened to a Steeler.

  40. stevez51 says: Nov 7, 2011 5:13 PM

    So Ryan Clarke getting a helmet to helmet penalty 2 weeks in a row means a 1 year ban?? Can that guy tackle any other way except leading with his head???

  41. hermanhothead says: Nov 7, 2011 5:36 PM

    Trying to determine if any single helmet G-force impact caused a concussion is the Holy Grail, but will technology ever be able to cost effectively sort out and predict the ever changing concussion “tipping points” of each football players? So far, all the research aimed at determining what causes a concussion is inconclusive; consequently, the sideline “concussion management protocol” on the observed effects of a “bell ringer” is the standard. Half the states, the NFL and the NCAA have policies and concussions management plans based on a multi-facet approach beginning with observed and the player’s responsibility to self-report symptoms; unfortunately, effective sideline observation and self-reporting are major weaknesses especially considering those “unrecorded incidents” where the player is hiding, if not lying about, the hit and its symptoms.

    The best solution is automatically recording all G-force helmet hits; in so doing, the player’s reluctance to admit a problem is eliminated and the trainer can test for a concussion before the risk of “second impact syndrome” comes into play. Using inexpensive biosensors to measure and keep accurate team records of the actual number and the frequency of G-force helmet impacts will truly help protect the players. If the helmet impact exceeds limits, an alert is automatically sent to the athletic trainer for thorough analysis; furthermore, all data is securely stored in the cloud for examination by medical professionals perhaps years after the collision.

    If the player received a concussion from a blow or not, recording the cumulative number of G-force hits will provide a baseline for concussion treatment; furthermore, the Hothead biosensors help protect all players from heat stroke by measuring and recording every player’s temperature. Hothead helmet biosensors help prevent injuries and the costs are insignificant compared to the impact of an injury or even the threat of potential litigation now or in the future. Hothead automatically alerts the trainers of severe helmet hits and this takes the responsibility of “self reporting” away from the football players who will risk it all rather than miss a play or two. The technology is there soon all of football will use some sort of measuring and reporting platform because the NFL’s current concussion policy has entered its next phase: litigation. Law suits have a tendency to create change…

  42. Deb says: Nov 7, 2011 5:58 PM

    @kingmiedus …

    Yes, darlin’, Ray Ray’s hit on Hines was an accident. And three little pigs are building houses of straw, sticks, and bricks at the end of my street. :roll:

    This is Steelers/Ravens football. You’ll know it’s an accident when you see players praying. Otherwise, it’s par for the course. Ray should have drawn a flag but didn’t, but both sides got away with a few last night. It’s not as bad as when ref Terry McCauley ignored the blood streaming from Roethlisberger’s face. “Head shot? I didn’t see no stinkin’ head shot.” The Ravens simply outplayed us in the end.

    As for Hines … Mike, you’re dead on the money about them returning to the game. But did it hurt anyone for Hines to stay on the sidelines? Would you really send him to the lockers to miss what might have been his final contest with the Ravens? Have a heart!

  43. critter69 says: Nov 7, 2011 7:32 PM

    Seems a lot of people commenting about concussions know little to nothing about them, nor experienced one.

    On a Friday in May 1977, I was in an accident, where my head hit the column between the front window and the door. Not even enough of a hit to cause bleeding, just a bit of skin scraped off, and clear fluid slowly oozing out. Within three hours of the accident, a hospital had checked me, and determined that no concussion could be found.

    The following Wednesday, I had a headache, one that lasted for almost two weeks before it broke, then came back for several more days, gradually receding to shorter and shorter periods farther and farther apart.

    A doctor did some tests, and determined that I, in fact, had suffered a concussion on the side of the brain 180 degrees opposite of where the hit occurred.

    In defense of the hospital, I did have some ‘concussion-like’ symptoms. For example, the fuel tank of one of the vehicles ruptered, and gas was flowing down the street. I was standing near where that fuel was flowing, and told everyone NOT to light a match, cigarette, lighter, etc. because of the danger of fire, and then I proceeded to light up a cigarette.

    Oh, and Deb? You mean the yinzers are too cheap to install any televisions in the locker room? Maybe the fans in that burg should take up a collection for a TV or two?

  44. johnnyb1976 says: Nov 7, 2011 8:12 PM

    Classic steeler move to bend the rules like they do they are as bad as the Pats as far as that goes

  45. Deb says: Nov 7, 2011 10:38 PM

    @critter69 …

    TV in the locker room? Not the same thing as watching it live. Didn’t the NFL and Jerrah figure that out after last year’s Super Bowl? :D

  46. monropoobah says: Nov 8, 2011 4:45 AM

    liquid4012 says:
    Nov 7, 2011 11:07 AM
    So your complaint boils down to having the player standing on the sideline rather than leave the field? neither Ward nor Polamalu went back into the game, so why is this even an issue?

    Good job praising the jets for putting an obviously concussed player back on the field while in the same breath condemn the Steelers for keeping their players on the sideline.

    ————————————————–

    #1 good point. as long as he’s not going back in, what difference does it make that he’s on the sideline?
    #2 you need to go back and read the jets story.
    or is this where you’re going to pronounce a pro jet bias from pft. this the pft that serves up frequent and juicy softballs for all the morons who need to take another whack at foot fetishes, fat jokes etc etc. please.

  47. flabtreesports says: Nov 8, 2011 6:17 AM

    citizenstrange, you have to know that Coleman can’t assess a PF retroactively during replay review. Ray will be fined, along with Clark and apparently Harrison for a late hit that looked pretty meaningless and didn’t draw a flag either. To say that, if called, the PF “would have” set the Steelers up for a TD is amusing considering the 7 points actually taken off the board for a holding call that you “would have” been whining about had it happened against Pittsburgh.

  48. ice90 says: Nov 9, 2011 9:01 AM

    Yes, Keller went back in the game AFTER he went through a series of tests with medical doctors and was cleared to play. They were open and honest about how they evaluated Dustin, who conducted the tests, and what protocol was followed before allowing him back in the game. We need more of that.

    I don’t think anyone is questioning the Steelers decision to keep Hines out of the game. It’s the secrecy about injuries in the NFL that continues to be a concern.

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