NFL Tells Game Officials to Watch Closely for Concussion Symptoms in Players

The NFL has slowly progressed toward making the league safer for professional athletes. The NFL took a step toward that goal last week by requiring game officials to have concussion awareness training. League spokesman Greg Aiello stated, “Our game officials will receive concussion awareness training and will remain alert to possible concussions during games, if an official believes a player may have suffered a concussion, he should take appropriate steps to alert the team and get medical attention for the player.”

The new policy of having game officials train in concussion awareness and watch closely for concussion symptoms all stems from an incident in which, San Diego Charger, Kris Dielman sustained a head injury against the New York Jets and later suffered a seizure on the team’s flight home from New York, the league’s injury and safety panel issued the directive a week after the incident.

Dielman showed signs of having a concussion with approximately 12 minutes remaining in the October 23, 2011, game against the Jets, after which he struggled to maintain balance. He was briefly sidelined, but was allowed to return to the game. Dielman finished the game despite the head injury and was not assessed until after the game.

Dielman suffered a grand mal seizure near the end of the team’s flight back to San Diego, although he was cleared of all long-term complications surrounding the concussion and seizure.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen interviewed Dr. Thomas Mayer, the NFLPA’s medical director who stated, “I’ve looked at the play at least a hundred times, not only does the broadcast footage provide a clear visual record, you can hear the collision loud and clear on the audio. It really was an unfortunate event but this is a process and an opportunity to further strengthen our protocol. There are a lot of lessons to be learned here.”

This incident has also led to questioning as to whether an independent neurologist should be present on the sidelines during games to help diagnose concussions? Currently, only the team physicians are on the sidelines to evaluate the professional athletes and determine whether the athletes can finish the game. It is only after the game when an independent neurologist is consulted to evaluate the extent of the concussion.

Surely, the NFL is headed in the right direction by implementing new safety procedures and rules and having game officials train in concussion symptom awareness, but what about the former players who were not given those safeguards and what about the current players who have been in the league for several years? The bottom line is, the problems associated with concussions have been known for years, but there really has been no action to make the athletes safer and aware of those ramifications until now.

Currently, millions of dollars are being spent to investigate the long term consequences of concussions and other brain related injuries. Player awareness of the seriousness of concussions and ongoing lawsuits filed against the NFL has led to new safety procedures and protocol, but is it all too little too late for former and current players?

Pope, McGlamry, Kilpatrick, Morrison & Norwood, P.C. is currently investigating concussion injury cases on behalf of former professional football players and athletes, as well as those who may have suffered from a concussion caused by other forms of trauma such as an automobile accident, trucking accident or a slip and fall. If you or someone you love has been injured by a sports-related concussion, you may be entitled to compensation.