Last Sunday night, the concussion protocol seemingly failed to keep Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate out of action until he was properly checked for a concussion. The league’s official position is that the pair of spotters in the booth concluded that Brate was hit in the shoulder.
During a Saturday afternoon videoconference regarding the changes to the concussion protocol resulting from the Tua Tagovailoa investigation, NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills was asked about the league’s contention that Brate suffered a blow to the shoulder, not the head.
“I actually agree with you,” Sills said as to the notion that the video shows Brate being struck in the head. “I think there was contact to the shoulder and head from what I’ve seen on the video.”
Sills explained that the spotters have up to 30 different camera angles available to them.
“They look for a blow to a head or something where there’s . . . forces transmitted to the head or neck area, and then they look to see if they believe that injury behavior is present, and if that injury behavior would indicate a concussion protocol — or a concussion evaluation should be done,” Sills said.
He pointed out that there are a number of situations involving blows to the head or neck area in every game that don’t exhibit injury behavior. Thus, the spotters don’t order a concussion evaluation.
“Our instructions to them are if they see anything that meets the criteria of injury behavior, that they should then call down and initiate the concussion protocol, and again to be conservative in doing so,” Dr. Sills said. “That’s sort of our instruction, that’s my understanding of what went on. I wasn’t in the booth that night.”
According to the NFL, however, the spotters never got to the point at which they asked themselves whether Brate exhibited “injury behavior.” (He did.) The spotters concluded he was struck in the shoulder, not the head.
Dr. Sills agreed that Brate absorbed a blow to the head. Thus, the spotters got this one wrong. Brate should have been checked for a concussion, at a time when he re-entered the game without an evaluation. While the league has yet to admit that directly, the league’s top doctor now has.