Concussion protocols tweaked after Newton probe


New York (AFP)

NFL and players' union officials have tweaked their joint concussion protocols following an investigation into how the policy was applied to Carolina quarterback Cam Newton in the league's season opener.

The NFL and NFL Players Association announced Wednesday in a joint statement that the probe found no violation of concussion protocol from the Panthers' September 8 game against Denver, in which Newton suffered multiple helmet-to-helmet blows before being checked for possible head injury.

Newton was slow to rise from a fourth quarter helmet-to-helmet hit that resulted in a Denver penalty. The Panthers medical staff and an unaffiliated neuro-trauma consultant monitoring the game from the sideline could not see the blow and made radio contact with a spotter seated above the field to initiate a video review.

What an NFL-NFLPA statement called a "technology glitch" delayed review of the play but once it was seen, Newton was not deemed to need further evaluation as he did not display signs or symptoms of a concussion.

Newton was allowed to remain in the game while the matter was considered because, under the protocol, the spotter was unable to call a medical timeout once sideline medical personnel made contact.

Under a change in the protocol, the spotter will remain in contact with the sideline personnel and provide video support until a complete concussion evaluation has been made. That would enable spotters to halt the game if deemed necessary by sideline medical officials.

The league and union also looked into the Buffalo Bills game on September 15 against the New York Jets, in which Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor suffered a severe blow that included helmet-to-helmet contact and was then unsteady on his feet.

Referee Ed Hochuli sent Taylor to the sidelines for the required examination, which was conducted and enabled him to return to the game.

Hochuli's pro-active move, made before any action by the sideline medical officials, was considered an appropriately cautious move under concussion protocol. The statement said Hochuli's move would be used as an example to all referees on proper application of the protocol.

The league and union also said they were "reviewing the merits" of adding another unaffiliated neuro-trauma consultant to sit alongside the spotter during games.