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NFLPA again asks for independent doctors to check concussions

Alex SMith AP

After a Sunday in which several players — including three high-profile starting quarterbacks — left games with concussions, the NFL Players Association is again asking the league to put independent doctors on the sidelines to check on players who suffer head injuries.

Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith will renew his call for the league to hire concussion specialists who are not affiliated with any individual team to stand on the sidelines at every game and oversee testing and treatment of players who could have a concussion.

Under the current rules, teams are at a competitive disadvantage if they recognize concussion symptoms in their own players. If you work for a team and want that team to win, you might be tempted to look the other way if a key player takes a hard shot to the head because you know if he’s diagnosed with a concussion, that automatically rules him out for the rest of the game. The union believes independent experts should have final say over whether a player is removed from a game.

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and 49ers quarterback Alex Smith all suffered concussions on Sunday, and only Vick was quickly taken from the game. Cutler and Smith continued playing at first — even though they were both visibly shaken after hits to the head — before eventually leaving.

The play on which Cutler was drilled with a brutal helmet-to-chin hit was reviewed on instant replay to determine whether Cutler had crossed the line of scrimmage before passing, which meant almost five minutes elapsed before the next play was run. That should have been plenty of time for the Bears’ medical staff to check on Cutler to see how he was doing after taking such a tough shot. Instead, Cutler wasn’t evaluated for a concussion right then and there and was only pulled from the game later. The NFL, however, claims that the Bears’ medical staff handled Cutler’s concussion correctly.

By the letter of the rules, the Bears’ medical staff may have handled the concussion correctly, but the NFLPA’s point is that an independent doctor might have insisted on checking Cutler immediately after seeing him take that hit, and removed him from the game immediately. Given the NFL’s increasing emphasis on player safety and concussion prevention, that seems like a hard case for the NFL to argue against.

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9 Responses to “NFLPA again asks for independent doctors to check concussions”
  1. CKL says: Nov 13, 2012 12:05 PM

    I agree all that should be independent. That said, where are we on HGH testing, NFLPA? Yeah…thought so. Owners care about their bottom lines…and unions vilify them for it but I hate how unions always say they’re for integrity, their guys, etc but in reality they are always just about THEIR bottom lines also.

  2. FinFan68 says: Nov 13, 2012 12:10 PM

    Eye wash by the NFLPA. Why don’t they start by advising their membership to be honest and not try to hide injuries? This is just to help establish a perception for the pending lawsuits. They are planting the seeds that team doctors withheld info/diagnoses from players so their claims of no knowledge/NFL hid data gain better footing.

  3. smacklayer says: Nov 13, 2012 12:34 PM

    I am still waiting for NFLPA to call for league wide HGH testing and mandatory hip and thigh pads. Oh wait, they are fighting those things.

  4. daaabears says: Nov 13, 2012 12:55 PM

    This hit would have been a no-brainer for an independent. The problem is on marginal hits, especially in crucial situations or to important players.

  5. djh915 says: Nov 13, 2012 1:06 PM

    The NFL reviewed the handling of the Cutler concussion – The Bears staff did evaluate him for a concussion during the replay review and again between possessions and he showed no symptoms. It wasn’t until halftime that he showed symptoms and was then ruled out of the game. Please, don’t report that someone did something wrong or didn’t do something this important without knowing the facts.

  6. cwwgk says: Nov 13, 2012 1:13 PM

    Hypocrisy is the common thread stitched through each of the NFLPA’s public declarations.

  7. realfann says: Nov 13, 2012 1:37 PM

    @djh915

    “Please, don’t report that someone did something wrong or didn’t do something this important without knowing the facts”

    You came to the wrong site if you want stuff like that!!

  8. drewsylvania says: Nov 13, 2012 2:29 PM

    The NFL will never allow this. An independent examiner would find that people are concussed on the majority of plays.

  9. aboselli says: Nov 14, 2012 6:44 AM

    Why doesn’t the NFLPA instruct its members to stop inflicting head shots on its own members? Instead, it’s “Stop me before I concuss again!”

    I don’t understand how there could be all these injuries – wasn’t the regular officials return to guarantee a safe working environment for the NFLPA membership? Again – sort of a “they’ll protect us from…..ourselves”

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