Doctors advise team medical staffs to be more vigilant about concussions

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As expected, the NFL is launching an effort to improve the spotting of concussions.  The first step?  A memo telling team medical staffs to do a better job of spotting concussions.

PFT has obtained a copy of the memo that has been sent to team doctors and head athletic trainers reminding them to continue to ensure that the steps developed to identify concussions are observed and respected.  Alex Marvez of FOX Sports first reported the existence of the memo.

“We have generally been pleased with the care provided to players who have suffered concussions in both the preseason and during the first part of the regular season,” the memo states.  “That said, there remain occasional examples of where more care can be given to adhering to the relevant protocols.  The success of concussion prevention and treatment depends on team medical staffs, the players, and independent experts remaining diligent, working together and adhering to the mandated evaluation and treatment protocols that have been developed with the assistance of so many of you.”

The memo was written jointly by Dr. Hunt Batjer, Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, Dr. Matthew Matava, and Dr. Thom Mayer. Dr. Batjer and Dr. Elllenbogen chair the NFL’s head, neck, and spine committee.  Dr. Matava, the Rams’ team physical, serves as president of the NFL Physicians Society.  Dr. Mayer is the NFLPA’s medical director.

“Every concussion is a serious injury and must be treated conservatively,” the memo states.  “All concussion symptoms must be taken seriously, by medical staffs and players alike.  All suspected concussions must be investigated either with the Maddock’s test or the full NFL sideline exam.  Each possible injury must be investigated aggressively, aided by the athletic trainer monitor and shared through the communication and video system on each sideline.”

The memo also acknowledges the reality that players may be inclined to conceal potential concussions.

“We are also aware of reports suggesting that players may not always report their symptoms and may seek to avoid being examined for a possible concussion,” the memo states.  “Please remind your players of the need to be candid with the medical staffs and with one another.  In this respect, you should emphasize that the NFLPA supports the concussion protocols and that players should never hide, deny or attempt to minimize their symptoms.  That said, concussed players by definition have a brain injury, so close attention to mechanism of injury and subtle findings is necessary, as well as input from their fellow players, who may note subtle differences in performance or behavior.”

Attached to the memo were copies of existing documents regarding the management and treatment of concussions and the role of the Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant.

As PFT reported over the weekend, last week’s failure to spot a concussion suffered by Chargers safety Jahleel Addae angered Hall of Fame coach John Madden, prompting an effort to explore current procedures aimed at identifying players who may have suffered a concussion.  Presumably, Madden expects steps more extensive and pointed than a memo reminding doctors and athletic trainers to do that which some of them periodically are failing to do.

But it’s a good start.