NFL rookies heard from Michael Vick and Pacman Jones at the rookie symposium on Monday, with those two veterans of the NFL — and the judicial system — telling this year’s draft picks how to stay out of trouble off the field. And the rookies also heard from a doctor who told them what to do when they find themselves hurting on the field.
Dr. Mark Schickendantz, the head physician for the Cleveland Browns, told rookies that concealing head injuries and concussions is a major problem in the NFL, and that the players need to take it upon themselves to alert team doctors when they’re feeling symptoms.
“Don’t try to hide it,” Schickendantz said. “A little ding is not just a little ding.”
Schickendantz seems like a strange choice for the NFL to present as an expert on concussions because last season’s most infamous undiagnosed concussion happened on his watch. Browns quarterback Colt McCoy took a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit from Steelers linebacker James Harrison, suffered a concussion, and was cleared to go back into the game anyway. Browns President Mike Holmgren said afterward that Schickendantz checked McCoy out and “was looking at his face and his eyes” and didn’t think McCoy had suffered a concussion.
At the rookie symposium, Shickendantz said the league cares about the players’ well-being.
“Our only agenda is your health and safety,” he said. “It’s about you, not about us.”
The reality is it’s about everyone. It’s true that players sometimes avoid getting checked out by team doctors because they don’t want to be removed from games, and it’s true that’s a very bad idea. But it’s also true that sometimes players are mistakenly cleared to return to games even when they have been checked out by team doctors, and that’s a bad mistake.