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The NFL’s Concussion Protocol is a Joke


I may be a few weeks late on Festivus, but I’ve got a lot of problems with the NFL’s concussion protocol. And now they’re gonna hear about it.

Cam Newton

After yet another faux pas last weekend with the handling of Cam Newton, the NFL has itself a concussion problem.  Cam Newton was CLEARLY concussed after a brutal hit on a sack in the fourth quarter of the NFC Wild Card game between Newton’s Panthers and the New Orleans Saints.  He was hit and driven to the ground, kicked in the helmet after he was down (accidentally), then tried to run off the sidelines and collapsed.

Newton later went into the concussion tent to be evaluated by doctors, where it was determined that it wasn’t a concussion, but an “eye issue” where his visor was kicked into his eye by the Saints.  He was deemed “well enough” to come back into the game, even though he clearly showed signs of a concussion.


If you view the above replay, Newton looks to be kicked in the visor, but it doesn’t look like the visor came off its bearings and poked him in the eye.  Even if it did, his left eye seems to be the one that was affected, not the right.  Hmmm, that’s strange.  Let’s take a look at a tweet by Chris Nowinski, a former WWE wrestler, Harvard graduate and expert of all things concussion related:

If that isn’t infuriating enough, not only was Newton ruled not to have a concussion, he came BACK in the game to try and lead the Panthers to a comeback.  Newton got sacked a few more times and had his head slammed down to the ground on the last play of the game, another sack.  He is a monster, a freak of nature, but as big as he is, he is still human and is not impervious to concussions.

Tom Savage

Another, more disturbing example of the NFL’s lax concussion protocol is the hit put on Houston Texans’ quarterback Tom Savage in a game against the San Francisco 49ers.  Savage essentially had a seizure on the field after being driven into the ground. But doctors ruled there was no concussion while the referee WATCHED Savage freeze and shake for a solid five seconds.  WARNING:  This Video May Be Disturbing To Watch-


Not only did Savage’s injury not get ruled immediately as a concussion, he actually went BACK into the game for a series before doctor’s finally pulled him out to properly evaluate him for a concussion.  If that’s not the most ridiculous thing you’ve seen, I don’t know what is.

The NFL’s Concussion Protocol Must Change

Listen, I know these NFL players have a mind of their own and sometimes flat out refuse to remove themselves from the game. But the NFL pretending to be all about player safety makes me sick to my stomach.  If there’s even a hint of a possible concussion, the player should be immediately removed for evaluation and only get back into the game if he’s received clearance from at least two doctors.

The NFL states they’re about player safety. Yet, the flags and fines for headhunting, illegal contact with the helmet, and roughing the passer don’t actually change anything.  The game of football is played so fast that there’s no way players can just stop on a dime and avoid an inevitable hit.  Football is an extremely violent game, but the proper precautions need to be taken to AVOID having players go back into games concussed. Not a flag thrown and the player remaining in the game.

In addition to that, it seems more evident than ever that the NFL is just trying to cover its tracks for past wrongdoings.  After multiple lawsuits came out from former NFL players stating they’re unable to walk properly, have severe memory loss, and early onset Alzheimer’s, now the NFL decides to take a stand!?  After the movie Concussion came out (as bad as it was) which specifically went after the NFL for not taking concussions seriously enough, now you believe the NFL when they say they care about player safety?

What about the study done by medical journal JAMA stating that in their study of deceased former football players that they found high traces of CTE in 111 out of 112 brains?  Could this have been prevented decades ago when the word concussion meant sniffing some salts and CTE wasn’t even a term yet?

The biggest problem with the NFL, specifically Roger Goodell, is that he and the league are reactive to every issue they find themselves entangled in.  Instead of accepting responsibility for not taking concussions seriously enough and using the billions of dollars the league make to invest in better technology to evaluate CTE or at least make safer helmets & pads for the players, they back themselves into a corner & implement “rule changes” for player safety and a half-assed concussion protocol program.

As a former football player, I know what kind of animal the game of football is.  I hate to say it, but I’ve had multiple concussions and I didn’t even play in college.  I can’t imagine the kind of beating NFL players take during a 16 game season.  However, the NFL has blatantly ignored all these calls for player safety for years.  It’s time for a change.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve become much less interested in football in the past few years.  I will still watch it from time to time, but knowing the things they’ve covered up I can’t stand to root for the league to succeed.  This isn’t a matter of saying football is a bad sport or the players don’t love to play in the NFL.  It’s actually the opposite.  I would gladly let my kids play football if they wanted to, and I would enjoy every second of it.

Football was an extremely important part of my childhood and early adulthood.  It taught me many life lessons, including humility, leadership, discipline, and teamwork.  However, in order for me to continue to watch football, something needs to change, and it starts with the NFL.

There’s a reason why Mark Cuban said the NFL is “ten years away from an implosion.”  The over-saturation of the product and the hypocrisy that surrounds the league turns viewers away.  Maybe if Roger Goodell paid a little more attention to the safety of the players, people wouldn’t be so disgusted with the product.  For now unfortunately, that’s merely a pipe dream.

-Chris Passarelli

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