As the NFL tries to turn the page regarding a dubious history of concussion management, the future entails enhanced focus on spotting concussions.
In that regard, the NFL still has progress to make. All too often, players are sent back in with cursory examinations conducted amid the chaos of an NFL sideline.
This year, a change has been made — and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has reminded all players of the adjustments via email sent on Saturday afternoon. The email, a copy of which PFT has obtained, points out a significant change to the handling of concussions.
This year, at the insistence of the NFLPA, the league will use “Unaffiliated Neuro-trauma Consultants.” They will be independent of any teams, and they will “observe or perform all concussion examinations.”
To properly assess whether a player has a concussion, some experts believe the player should be taken to the locker room, have his shoulder pads removed, and receive a few minutes to collect himself before being examined. The league most likely prefers not to utilize such steps, because it could keep a key player out of action for 10-15 minutes of real time — with the end result being that he actually doesn’t have a concussion.
The memo from Smith also addresses the issue of field conditions, calling some situations “unsafe” in 2013 and vowing to use a field inspector who’ll shadow the league’s field testers.