Will Changing the Concussion Protocol Save the NFL?

Several on-field mishandlings of head injuries have put the pro football back on the defensive.

Does the Future of Football Rely On Changing Concussion Protocol?
Elvis Dumervil #58 of the San Francisco 49ers hits Tom Savage #3 of the Houston Texans during the game. (Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

This year, off-the-field NFL issues have received more attention than plays on the field, namely the debate over kneeling during the national anthem, thanks in part to President Donald Trump’s criticism of it and the league’s widespread response. However, concussions remain one of the NFL’s biggest problems, and several on-field mishandlings of head injuries have again put the conversation at the forefront. The NFL created a concussion protocol in 2009 and have periodically amended it. The biggest, and most important rule, is that players must be removed from the field immediately when a concussion is suspected. They are then examined by an independent neurological consultant and once the player is diagnosed with a concussion, other rules dictate how a player can return to play or “exit” the program. However, this rule isn’t always followed, most notably the Houston Texans allowing quarterback Tom Savage to re-enter the game after suffering what seemed to be a concussion-related seizure on the field. Though Savage was eventually pulled, obvious concussion symptoms were clearly missed, showing the limitations of the NFL’s protocol. Will the NFL change their protocol to address these issues? The future of the league may depend on it.

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