Independent trainers will watch for concussions


Though the NFL continues to take small steps in lieu of giant leaps, the process of diagnosing in-game concussions gradually is improving.

The latest step, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, will entail the use of independent athletic trainers, who’ll monitor players for possible concussions and oversee the testing process.

The best news?  The independent trainers will be stationed upstairs, monitoring the action with direct access to the sidelines.  (We’ve been arguing for the NFL to utilize a procedure like this for weeks, dating back at least to Mike Vick’s dirt-on-the-face misadventures.)

But there’s still more progress to be made.  When the independent trainers in the booth identify a player who needs to be checked for a concussion, the checking needs to be done by an independent neurologist, with the power to take the player in the locker room and assess him without any head coaches poking their noses over the shoulders of team-hired doctors whose practices benefit tremendously from being able to tell potential patients that the doctors work for NFL teams.

So why not use independent neurologists on the sidelines?  Hopefully, that’s the next small step that the league will take.

29 responses to “Independent trainers will watch for concussions

  1. Maybe the NFL will look next at hiring fulltime officials…….they’re only about 40 years late on that.

  2. Don’t even need neurologists on the sidelines. Just need one in the stadium’s med facilities with nurse practitioners. That’s where the players are going anyway – just escort them there.

    If the independent trainer sees something upstairs, he can then alert the sideline. The player should then be prohibited from re-entering the field of play until he has been cleared by the neurologist/APRN.

  3. Which player would you rather have for the next 10 years? Jason Pierre Paul or Darrele Revis? Please help me settle an argument with a friend of mine. NO BIASED ANSWERS!!! Thumbs up for JPP, Thumbs down for Revis

  4. You use athletic trainer in the report, but not the title. The proper terminology is Athletic Trainer not trainer. “Independent Athletic Trainers will watch for Concussions”

  5. Independent neurologist won’t happen. NFL is big business and they don’t care about an individual players well being over their bottom line.
    They don’t want an independent neurologist telling a team to sit Brees because he was hit and has concussion. Its called ratings being hit!

  6. I have been giving this some thought recently and I think there are some bright line rules which could help.

    Taking the Colt McCoy incident as an example. If the trainers must be called to the field to check on any player as a result of a personal foul for “blow to the head” the officials on the field should advise the trainer of the reason (blow to the head) so that it is not “missed.” Concussion evaluation should then be mandatory. Also, and this is important to not reward head hunting, the player called for inflicting the blow to the head should also be banished to the sideline until the player who was fouled is cleared to return to the game (for the remainder of the game anyway).

  7. I think independant neurologists upstairs will be better than independant neurologists on the sidelines to be honest. Less succeptable to be ‘influenced’ by an intimidating head coach looking over their shoulder.

  8. Ridiculous! I agree, why not just hire a Neurologist for the day; a MD with absolutely no ties OR aspirations to be tied to the NFL.
    Where do they plan to get these so called “independent trainers”? What type of training do the have diagnosing head injuries?………the questions go on and on.
    I don’t know what an athletic trainer makes for a living but I do know that a head trainer and their assistant do quite well in the NFL. While I hate to sound like a “conspiracy theorist” BUT wouldn’t a trainer, lingering in a meanial job in college, high school or AAU, aspire to be affiliated with an NFL franchise? and if so would they truly want to be overly cautious in their duties by pulling a star player from the field against the wishes of the franchise fearing they would be black listed from potential employment with an NFL team? If so are the truly independent?
    Just a theory!

  9. They will all follow the same checklist

    Athlete standing or prone?

    Screaming or just moaning?

    Eyes focussed, glassy, or sightless?

    Skull intact or brain matter visible?

    Head fully attached, partially attached, or rolling free on the turf?

  10. So, what professional qualifications do these ‘independent trainers’ have for identifying concussions?

  11. Why is it that football fans think that the sport can “never be made safe?” It would seem to me that you really would only have to slightly alter the “nature of the game” so as to eradicate all head/neck contact (which is only a small body area anyhow). It’s been said before, but I’ll reiterate: why couldn’t they just go to smaller helmets (to discourage launching in favor of actual tackling, and to discourage runners from lowering their head into defenders) and let linemen stand up so that they’re not constantly butting heads, and you’re almost there.

  12. You could use independent neurologists. Or you could use the Cleveland Browns training staff. Because, you know, they are the best according to the Walrus.

  13. This issue reeks of damage control. And obviously, it’s in response to a nationally televised game where viewers witnessed a player who likely sustained a concussion, where viewers witnessed the team let the player go back into the game, and where viewers witnessed the team ignore the NFL policy regarding in-game concussions.

    What’s more troubling is the appointment of athletics trainers to monitor in-game concussions.

    So let’s get this straight – the NFL and Union have appointed certified athletics trainers to oversee the sideline medical staff regarding the implementation of proper league protocol and testing for any head trauma. This seems like an extremely important responsibility, yet a “certified athletics trainer” is not a physician.

    Furthermore, the term “medical staff” does not necessarily include a physician – it is a broad term that may consist of athletic trainers, emergency technicians, paramedics, physician assistants, nurses, physical therapists, etc. – but not necessarily include a physician.

    In the private medical sector, it would be malpractice for a non-physician to make a diagnosis of concussion. Emergency technicians or paramedics make an “assessment” (not diagnosis) for the purpose of taking proper actions in the field to sustain life while delivering the patient to the hospital where a physician ultimately makes a diagnosis and treats the ailment at the hospital.

    Because the NFL and Union signed the “legal” paperwork on the measure, the sideline certified athletics trainer has been given ultimate authority to make a diagnosis of concussion in an NFL game.

    Given this, the players’ families should be concerned that non-physicians are making critical medical diagnoses on the sidelines of games about the health of their loved ones.


    If the NFL made the ProCap mandatory equipment, it would solve the problem of frequent concussions and the need for “concussion spotters”.

    How do I know this?

    Because the ProCap has already been successfully used by NFL players, who credit the use of it, for saving and extending their careers.

    Look it up !

  15. Given that there are only 17 Sundays of regular season games, it’s probably not realistic to think those 17 days (+/-) will be enough to constitute a full-time job. If that changes, please let me know where I can sign up for that gig.

    If games = money, it makes sense for baseball and basketball, but not football.

  16. Any sensible neurologist would not go near this…at least w/o an ironclad waiver of liability.

    Any sensible neurologist would err everytime on the side of caution ( ie, “you’re done for today”).

    And this opens a Pandoras box. Is a neurologist going to be at every practice?, college game? HS game? HS practice? pee wee?

    Give me a break.

    Additionally, are all concussions evident even in the minutes after they happen?

    In summary: Retarded idea.

  17. Never understand the call for independent neurologists. You really think your family doctor or nurse practitioner is incapable of deciding whether someone has a concussion or not? We don’t need a specialist for everything.

    Making such a determination is easy and could be taught to all trainers and coaches in a two hour session. This is not particle physics.

  18. ‘will entail the use of independent athletic trainers, who’ll monitor players”

    independent independent athletic trainers ??

    So the test for concussions will be done by an “athletic trainer ??

    That has to fill the players with a ton of confidence.

  19. @chitownbrizzle

    You can’t be serious… smaller helmets? If we are going to move to smaller helmets why don’t we just go back to the leather helmets? I’m sure that nobody ever hit with their head back in the 50’s/60’s before there were any rules against it…

    Also, linemen standing up?! If you know anything about O-line/D-line play, it is all about leverage and who can get lower. Also, you think that Brees or Vick could see over their 6’5 O-linemen? Not to mention you have no explosion coming off the ball when you are standing.

    And btw, O-linemen and D-linemen do stand up during games. Some O-linemen don’t get in a 3-point stance during obvious passing situations. D-linemen stand up in some more complex defenses like the Ravens and Steelers.

    So…. way to go bro

  20. Just goes to prove the incompetence of the medical staff teams had before. Apparently they didn’t do their job to begin with or we wouldn’t be discussing these changes. Why did it take so long to recognize the fault in the previous system? Money thats why?

  21. An “independent” opinion?

    So you’re saying that a team’s paid medical professionals can’t be trusted to protect the player’s health over the team’s needs???


    I’ll have to ask the Easter Bunny about that.

  22. So are these indepedent atheletic trainers going to be flown in from neutral sites? Or will they be from the home market? Certainly could give a new meaning to homefield advantage…

    If I lived in New England, worked my daily job there, and did this on a part-time basis I sure hope my boss and fellow workers don’t get upset when I sit Tom Brady. And Wes Welker. On the other hand I could be a Jets fan living in New England.

  23. Before anyone posts more ignorant blogs about athletic trainers, why don’t you research their training. They are more than qualified to recognize and diagnose concussions. Sideline testing performed by an athletic trainer, MD, or neurologist are all the same, there are standardized rules for how to assess them.

    Furthermore one of the top researchers in concussions Kevin Guskiewicz is an athletic trainer and just received a MacArthur fellowship “genius grant” allocating him $500,000 of grant money for his research

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