Monday, November 13, 2017 1:50 pm
Colts' treatment of Jacoby Brissett prompts more scrutiny of how NFL concussions are handled
Cindy Boren | Washington Post
For the second time in four days, NFL concussion protocol is under fire, with the treatment of several players raising questions about whether the proper steps were followed.
The Seattle Seahawks are being scrutinized by the league for the way in which quarterback Russell Wilson was allowed to miss only a short period of time in Thursday night's game. Wilson maintains that he "felt completely clear" after Karlos Dansby's helmet clipped him on the chin. Still, the team could face a fine because the concussion policy requires that a player believed to have symptoms not return to "practice or play" until cleared by a team physician and an independent neurological consultant. Wilson maintains he was cleared, but he was off the field for only the briefest of moments.
On Sunday Jacoby Brissett of the Indianapolis Colts was allowed to return to the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers after a hit that looked fairly benign left him lying on the ground for a moment, then holding the back of his helmet before being helped off by teammates. The Colts said Brissett passed evaluations by the team doctor and then the independent neurological consultant. He eventually emerged from the blue tent used for sideline evaluations and hurried back onto the field before the start of the next possession. The Colts later said he developed concussion symptoms after the game.
Following procedures for players in the protocol, Brissett was not made available to speak to the media. His treatment angered Dr. Chris Nowinski, a co-founder of the Concussion Legacy Foundation and Boston University's chronic traumatic encephalopathy program. He tweeted that the "protocol is a fraud" and that Brissett showed "the clearest concussions [sic] signs of the season. You don't need a protocol to hold this player out."
In Washington's loss to Minnesota, the Redskins announced that wide receiver Ryan Grant was evaluated for a concussion after a hard hit by Linval Joseph and shortly afterward the team announced that he had been cleared to return. Not long after that, the team announced that further testing was being done and he was ruled out for the rest of the game, with Coach Jay Gruden later confirming that he was in the concussion protocol.
An important component of the NFL's drive to decrease head injuries from repetitive hits to the head concerns player awareness and, over the past couple of years, there have been signs that players, enlightened about the dangers that can ensue from concussions, are taking themselves out of games.
In a pivotal stretch in December 2015, a woozy Case Keenum, then playing for the Rams when they were in St. Louis, remained in a game, triggering a reminder from the league to all teams to follow the official concussion protocol or face punishment. It also prompted one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league to take himself out of a game. The Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, whose history shows a gutsy willingness to play through pain, stayed in the game after a helmet-to-helmet hit and played nine more snaps, then took himself out. He headed to the locker room for evaluation and entered the NFL's protocol. Although Roethlisberger played a bit longer, he later made a surprising admission.
"I was on the sideline thinking, 'Do I want to go back into this game?' I was thinking of my family, my lifestyle when I get done with football, with all these injuries. . . . The brain is nothing to mess with," he said. "I was literally on the sideline, probably for the first time maybe in my life, thinking about my family and not going back into the game because I did not feel quite right. It was definitely a moment; that's why I was honest with the trainers and doctors and wanted to tell them exactly what I was going through. I feel like I made the right [decision]."