NFL to Diagnose Player Concussions on the Sidelines

The National Football League (NFL) has issued new guidelines about concussion diagnosis during games. Basically, team doctors will use a new standardized assessment protocol on the sidelines if concussion is suspected. This tool allows immediate evaluation of injury so that athletes with concussion or other serious brain trauma so that players can be removed from the game.

The new concussion protocol combines a symptom checklist, a limited neurologic examination (including a cognitive evaluation), and a balance assessment.

According to an article on Bloomberg.com:

“This tool provides a standardized format for evaluating head injury that medical staff can use on the sideline,” Margot Putukian, chairwoman of the NFL’s Return-to-Play Subcommittee and head team physician for Princeton University, said in the statement. “It incorporates the most important aspects of a focused exam, so that injury is identified and athletes with concussion and more serious head and spine injury can be removed from play.”

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems remarkable that this relatively simple, standardized test hasn’t been incorporated earlier. Or perhaps it’s a sign that the NFL is now finally willing to recognize that concussions are dangerous. According to an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff agrees that the protocol is a welcome change:

“It takes a little bit of the gray area out of it in my mind,” Dimitroff said. “It makes sure that we have some checks and balances. I think it’s positive for both sides …. I remember that many years ago when we were saying, ‘you have to go back in there no matter how you feel,'” Dimitroff said. “Now, I think we are just playing a lot smarter. I think that’s good.”

We think that’s good, too. Better a little caution, a missed game or two, than more cases of dementia or player suicides. All brain trauma is potentially serious. If the protocol is actually used, all football players could have Golden Years that are actually, well… golden.

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