On Sunday, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told PFT that the league is exploring options for enhancing the procedures for determining during games whether players have suffered concussions.
The league has no decided to turn one of its options into action.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported earlier this week that the league office sent a memo Tuesday to all 32 clubs explaining that the “league observer,” who attends every game and monitors the action from the press box, will be responsible for altering teams’ medical staffs as to “possible undetected injuries.”
“A direct ring-down phone line must be in place from the NFL Observer position in the press box to both the home and visiting bench areas,” the memo states, per Mortensen. “This line should be clearly marked on the NFL Observer’s phone. The purpose of the additional phone lines is to allow the NFL Observer to alert the Athletic Training staff to a possible injury that may have been missed at field-level.”
It sounds good, but it’s not enough. A completely separate person, properly trained in the signs and symptoms of “undetected injuries,” should be assigned to handle only one job — spotting players who have suffered concussions or other injuries, via the naked eye and any available replays. And when the phone rings down to field level, it should go not to a member of the training staff of the player’s team, but to a truly independent doctor who will determine whether or not the player should be cleared to return to the game, without the head coach sticking his nose into the evaluation.
Still, the process is moving in the right direction. While the league has done a great job of handling players who have been diagnosed with concussions, the procedures for applying the label need to be improvement.
The new memo represents some improvement. Here’s hoping that more will come.