The flaws in the NFL’s handling of in-game concussions became a focal point following a 2011 game between the Chargers and Jets. Former Chargers offensive lineman Kris Dielman was clearly knocked loopy, struggled to stand, was permitted to keep playing, and suffered a seizure on the flight back to San Diego after the game.
According to Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today, an independent NFL-NFLPA panel has cleared the Chargers’ medical staff for their handling of the situation.
But the inquiry seemed to focus not on the failure to pull Dielman from the game but on the treatment and evaluation Dielman received after the game.
“In retrospect and after subsequently reviewing the video of the entire play in question, [athletic trainer James] Collins, [trainer Calvin] Wong, and Dr. [David] Chao thought it was clear that Mr. Dielman had suffered a significant head injury,” the report states. “However, while knowing this information on the field would have surely changed their sideline management during the game, they would not have changed the manner in which he was subsequently managed after the game nor on the plane ride back to San Diego.”
The report also states that Dielman declined to be interviewed, which strongly suggests that litigation is coming, eventually.
“Mr. Dielman’s care from the moment his concussion was diagnosed was appropriate and consistent with the standard of care,” the report explains. “The subsequent seizure, an extremely rare event, suffered by Mr. Dielman during the plane’s descent into San Diego could not have been foreseen nor prevented.”
The challenge for the NFL, the NFLPA, and its teams continues to be spotting concussions quickly and getting players who have suffered them off the field, ASAP. Eventually, a player who has suffered a concussion and who has not been removed from play will suffer another concussion — and the outcome could be far more serious than a seizure.