The NFL and NFLPA issued a joint statement on Wednesday concerning their investigations into whether the concussion protocol was followed correctly when evaluating Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on the opening night of the season.
Newton took a helmet-to-helmet hit in the fourth quarter of the game and was slow to get up, but never left the field to be evaluated for a possible concussion. The investigation found that the Panthers team doctors and the Unaffiliated Neuro-trauma Consultant (UNC) on the sideline asked the independent certified athletic trainer acting as a spotter upstairs to see video of the play because they didn’t have a clear view of the hit from the sideline.
“In order to facilitate the video review, the team physician and UNC initiated radio contact with the Booth ATC and asked to view the video. Under the current application of the Protocol, once contact between the Booth ATC and the club’s medical team occurs, the Booth ATC’s responsibilities end (including the ability to call a medical timeout),” the statement explains. “The time it took to actually receive the video following this request was prolonged due to a technology glitch. After reviewing the replay and observing Mr. Newton from the sideline, the Panthers’ medical staff and the UNC agreed that no further evaluation of Mr. Newton was necessary as they did not observe signs or symptoms of concussion.”
The league found that the team doctors and consultant “worked closely together to provide medical care for the players involved and their team work should be emulated across the League.”
The statement also covered the application of the protocol during the Bills-Jets game in Week Two, which saw referee Ed Hochuli direct Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor to the sideline for an evaluation after a big hit. Taylor was cleared to return to the game and the statement calls Hochuli’s decision “a conservative and therefore appropriate application” of the protocol.
In addition to statements on those two incidents, the statement also outlines “enhancements” to the protocol that include using Hochuli’s actions as an example of “proactive officiating,” requiring the spotter in the booth to remain in contact with the sideline until an evaluation has occurred, and looking into the possibility of adding a UNC to the spotter in the booth.