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NFL to reassess procedures for spotting concussions during games


When it comes to identifying players who may have suffered concussions, there’s no margin for error.

That’s why the NFL can’t, and won’t, tolerate situations like the one that unfolded Thursday night in Denver, when Chargers safety Jahleel Addae needed to be removed from play after he suffered what seemed to be -- and ultimately was diagnosed as -- a concussion.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the league office was dismayed by the failure of the team, the game officials, the sideline medical experts, and the persons given the task of monitoring the game from the press-box level to spot what instantly was noticed during the game at 345 Park Avenue: That Addae was in distress and needed to immediately come out of the game.

Similar concerns arose earlier this month, when Bears safety Chris Conte suffered a concussion and somehow made it back into the game. In the wake of these incidents, the NFL is determined to review all current in-game procedures in order to improve the process of getting players who may have suffered concussions promptly evaluated and, where appropriate, prevented from re-entering the game.

Addae’s case, we’re told, left former NFL coach and long-time broadcaster John Madden livid. The Hall of Fame coach, who chairs the Coaches Subcommittee to the Competition Committee, has developed into a passionate advocate for concussion safety.

WHEN IN DOUBT LEAVE THEM OUT” was the heading of the 2011 memo introducing the Madden Rule, which applies when a player has been diagnosed with a concussion. A gap still exists when it comes to the application of the “concussion” diagnosis. While players themselves have a responsibility to disclose their own symptoms and those spotted in teammates, no player input was needed on Thursday night. It was obvious Addae had suffered a head injury.

“Any player suspected of having a concussion is a ‘NO GO’ and does not return to play in the same game or practice, and cannot return to play at all until he is cleared by both his team physician and an independent neurologist,” the 2011 memo explained. For both Addae and Conte, the directive was not honored. Which means that the procedures aren’t as good as they need to be. And the NFL will be taking a closer look at improving those procedures.

All options are on the table, from increased audits of team records to imposing greater accountability on medical experts responsible for yanking players to requiring doctors to physically sign off, during a game, on the clearance provided to a player suspected of a concussion but permitted to return.

“This is not boxing,” one source told PFT. “There’s no such thing as a standing eight count.”

Instead, the desire outcome in football is that if it appears a player needs the equivalent of a standing eight count, he should be removed from play until he receives full neurological clearance.

Whatever happens, the current procedures must be improved. Coach Madden has a high degree of motivation on this topic, and he strongly believes that the professionals charged with safeguarding player health must be expected to do their jobs -- and that if they can’t, someone else needs to be hired to do those jobs.

He’s right, and the NFL knows it. Look for real changes to come, sooner rather than later.