The NFL concussion protocol was established to help identify and treat concussions in the NFL much quicker, but how does it work?
The concussion protocol came into effect in 2009, but over the years has seen many changes as the number of concussions has only gone up. Further, research concluded a strong correlation between concussions and neurological problems like CTE.
In fact, some players have even committed suicide after struggling with head trauma caused by concussions. After week 1, Chris Godwin entered the concussion protocol after a late hit to the helmet against the Saints.
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How does the NFL concussion protocol work?
The concussion protocol starts with identifying head injuries on the field. During each NFL game, a team of designated spotters will be on the lookout for anything that could signal a concussion. Some of these people are situated on the sidelines while others look on from a booth above.
Each NFL team also has an assigned neurotrauma expert who monitors the athletes from the sideline. If either party notes something suspicious (signs of confusion, disorientation, head-clutching, etc.), then a timeout is called and the player is taken off the field to be examined.
Next, follows a four step process for a player to be eligible to come back to playing conditions. The first step is resting and avoiding all physical activities except for stretching.
The next phase involves supervised light aerobic exercises. Progression continues to cardiovascular activities and strength training.
Once the neuro-trauma expert and team doctor come to an agreement on the player’s progress, he may be allowed to resume practices and play in games.
There are also detailed criteria a player must meet before returning to the field.
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What happens if a team violates the concussion protocol?
The NFL’s Head, Neck, and Spine committee have agreed upon lofty fines for any team violating the NFL’s concussion protocol.
The first violation could cost a team anywhere between $50,000 to $150,000. Another breach may result in another fine of $50,000 to $100,000. In very serious breaches, draft picks could also be docked.
In 2016, the Seattle Seahawks were fined $100,000 when Russell Wilson returned to a game almost immediately after his concussion evaluation.