The NFL regular season opened up with an exciting game between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos, and more controversy over the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Reigning MVP and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton took several scary hits to the head, only one of which was called. Several others went without penalty.
One play in particular is raising concerns about the NFL’s concussion protocol. On the Panthers’ final drive, Newton took a hit to the head from Broncos safety Darian Stewart and at the same time was called for intentional grounding. As the referees reviewed the penalties — both were offset by the other — Newton appeared slow to get up, but was never pulled out of the game.
The NFL released a statement about the lack of examination on Newton and said medical personnel cleared him with an unusual method. Here’s the statement (via ESPN’s Dan Graziano):
“There was communication between medical personnel on the Carolina sideline, including the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant, and the two independent certified athletic trainer spotters in the booth. During stoppage in play while on-field officials were in the process of administrating penalties, the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant and team physician requested video from the spotters and reviewed the play. They concluded there were no indications of a concussion that would require further evaluation and the removal of the player from the game.”
On “SportsCenter” Friday morning, Graziano said there was two minutes and 20 seconds between the stoppage of the play and the next snap. While medical personnel reviewed film of the play and determined Newton did not have a concussion, it appears Newton himself was never examined.
“They said that there was no evidence in the video that they looked at to warrant removing Cam Newton from the game,” said Graziano. “They say they examined the player from the sidelines, no one got in his face and administered the concussion test. It was all done from the sideline and the video.”
According to the Charlotte Observer’s Scott Fowler, a Panthers official said they were never told to check Newton after taking a hit from Stewart. Panthers spokesman Steve Drummond told Fowler, “The game was never stopped. We never got a call to the sideline and the independent neurologist never alerted us to stop the game.
As the NFL notes in its statement, during games, there are unaffiliated neurotrama consultants on both sidelines and certified athletic trainers with the ability to call a medical timeout from the press box to examine a player. From the sounds of it, while Stewart’s hit on Newton was reviewed on film, it doesn’t seem as if any trainers specifically checked Newton for concussion-like symptoms.
Newton said he was asked “a couple of questions” after the game — he later said he couldn’t remember the questions — but wasn’t placed into concussion protocol.
However, the point of these new additions to the protocol is to identify concussions during the game, not after. If Newton went unchecked, in person, for symptoms, it’s a major letdown by the NFL. As many have pointed out, if the NFL is serious about player safety, these type of lapses can’t be allowed.
The NFL didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the review of Stewart’s hit on Newton.