NFL Concussion Protocol: What Is It?

NFL concussion protocol has been around since 2009.  It has been tweaked a few times along the way, the most recent being 2016, and it is a protocol that is definitely here to stay as the NFL attempts to make the sport of professional football safer for its players. So, what happens in that blue tent when a player is suspected of having suffered a concussion?

There are five steps in the NFL concussion protocol:

  1. The player is removed from the game if a play is determined to be a potential concussion
  2. The NFL team physician and an independent neurotrauma specialist review the play on tape and perform a concussion examination
  3. If there is suspicion of a concussion, the player is escorted to the locker room for further exam.
  4. If there is a concussion the player is then removed from the game
  5. If there is no concussion, the player may return to the game but is monitored closely throughout the remainder of the game.

And what are the observable symptoms that a concussion may have occurred?  They are:

  • Any loss of consciousness
  • The player is slow to get up after a hit to the head
  • There are motor coordination problems like stumbling, tripping, or slow labored movements
  • A blank or vacant look
  • Disorientation
  • Clutching of head after contact
  • Visible facial injury in combination with any of the above

And beyond that there is a “return to participation protocol” which can keep a player out of actual games indefinitely until it is determined that he is fully recovered.

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