On the heels of two recent high-profile NFL brain injuries being wildly and obviously mishandled, even by the limited standards of the NFL’s concussion protocol, the NFL has made significant in-season updates to the protocol, according to a report from Chris Mortensen.
The changes, listed below, include a central unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant (UNC), located at the league’s replay center, to supplement the occasionally insufficient efforts of the UNCs deployed at each game.
- A central UNC will be stationed in the NFL’s command center to assist in broadcast oversight at each game;
- Any sign of impact seizure will be considered the same as loss of consciousness, and the player will be out for the game;
- A referee who removes a player from the game for suspected head trauma must notify the medical staff;
- A player who exhibits gross motor instability or significant loss of balance must be taken to the locker room for evaluation if it is not diagnosed as an orthopedic injury;
- A player who is evaluated for a concussion must be re-evaluated within 24 hours, even if the player has an off day;
- A third UNC will be on site for the playoffs and the Super Bowl, in addition to the two already assigned to each regular-season game.
The inclusion of “any sign of impact seizure” as a trigger for disqualification seems overdue, and appropriate. UNC performance was a major factor in the case of Tom Savage, who suffered a brutal hit to the head and showed very visible signs of brain injury while lying on the field, but who was allowed to continue playing on his team’s very next offensive series. Video review of any potential concussion is required by the protocol; a central UNC in the league’s replay office seems like a response to that requirement not always being fulfilled.