The NFL has issued a statement regarding an enhancement to its existing in-game concussion protocols. The changes become effective immediately.
As expected, the league has announced that a “certified athletic trainer” will attend each game, with the goal of assisting the teams and the medical staffs regarding concussion evaluation and treatment. The certified trainer will come from a “major college program in the area,” selected jointly by the league and the NFLPA. The trainer will have no affiliated with any NFL club.
The overriding purpose of the certified, independent trainer will be to provide information to team medical staffs, given that personnel at field level may miss things like, for example, a quarterback nearly getting his head taken off by James Harrison. The certified, independent trainer will have no authority to remove a player from a game.
Also, medical staffs will be allowed to use their cell phones in order to obtain information regarding the care of an injured player, whether the player has a concussion or any other injury. Though we’re not quite sure how that will help a doctor diagnose a concussion or any other injury, it can’t hurt.
All that said, the league still needs to have independent neurologists present on the sidelines to handle the diagnosis of a possible concussion. As suggested during today’s PFT Live, the league and its teams possibly prefer not to have an independent neurologist present because the independent neurologist would possibly want to take the player to the locker room for a proper evaluation, away from the crowd and the noise and the weather and the other players and the frenetic atmosphere on the sidelines and the curious head coach and the playing of a game in the background.
The league and its teams presumably want something more efficient and immediate, which will result in players being either cleared or shut down quickly, so that a player without a concussion won’t be kept out of the game for an unduly long period of time. Still, if the goal is to catch all concussions, the league needs to err on the side of ensuring that no player with a concussion re-enters a game, even if that means keeping a non-concussed player out of action for more than a few plays.