NFL Concussion Protocol Violated… AgainJanuary 11, 2018
It has been pretty well-documented throughout this season that the league’s concussion protocol is a joke. It is a paper-thin front that the NFL puts on to limit the growing criticism of the game’s safety. The “protocol” dictates that if the unbiased medical staff suspects that a player might have suffered a concussion, that player must be evaluated in the locker room. As a fan watching the game on TV, even I am able to recognize that any kind of staggering or sluggishness after a blow to the head is reason enough to take that player off the field and evaluate him. But time and time again this season, the protocol is treated like a 65 mph speed limit on a highway. Great in theory, good intentions behind it, but very few people actually follow it. Matt Moore, Case Keenum, Jacoby Brissett, Russell Wilson, Tom Savage, and just recently Cam Newton all prove how teams are skirting around the rules to keep their guy in the game.
In the Carolina game last weekend, I remember watching the hit on Newton and him falling woozily to the ground on his way off the field. Right there I said to myself, if he comes back in this game I’ll lose any respect I had left for the concussion protocol. Sure enough, Cam was back out there for the next drive without a trip to the locker room (just the “medical tent”, which happens to be right next to all the on-field action). Important playoff game, close score, the natural competitiveness of the athletes – it is a recipe for disaster in regards to following protocol. Unfortunately, I absolutely understand it. As a fan in that scenario, I want to see my quarterback coming back out there and giving my team the best chance to win. The NFL obviously wants the superstars to be on the field in a playoff game rather than following a “precautionary protocol”, although they would never publicly admit to that. The player usually wants to go back onto the field too – shake it off, be tough, sacrifice for your team. Medical consequences that don’t come into fruition until thirty or forty years down the road are secondary in importance. It is all understandable. Football is violent sport, but that is one of the reasons why it draws us fans in. We want to be entertained, and frankly that sometimes is more important to us than the player’s health. It is the NFL’s moral job, however, to make sure that the players are safe and not knowingly sending them back out onto the field into harm’s way.
My main issue is that the NFL is making this artificial idea that they care first and foremost about the players’ health. If that was the case, the concussion protocol would actually have weight to it. However, it is tossed around and disregarded repeatedly. If the NFL is going to have a standardized procedure for spotting and diagnosing head injuries, it should be followed the same way no matter how big the game is. That means that Cam Newton should have gone into the locker room to be evaluated in that Wild Card game versus the Saints. There should be major adjustments made this offseason in regards to the protocol. Whether it is harsher penalties or more power given to the medical staff, something should be done to legitimize this extremely important, potentially life-saving rule.
Written by Matt Loehle