You've probably forgotten, seeing as it didn't get much pub, but there was a game last year where some douchebag from some crappy team levelled Colt McCoy in the head right after he threw the ball. He was down for a few minutes, trainers checking on him, then came off the field for further evaluations. To the shock of many (and the dismay of those who didn't want him back in the game for any number of reasons), Colt was back in the game only a few plays later.
How could that happen in the now-concussion-touchy NFL?
The Browns explanation was that the trainers didn't see the hit, that Colt complained of a hand injury when they came on the field, so they evaluated his hand and said he was fine to return, not knowing McCoy had his bell run because he didn't say anything about it and wasn't showing symptoms.
The result was a PR black eye for both the Browns and the League.
In his article today, Peter King of CNNSI details a conversation he had recently with Pope Roger Goodell regarding changes being made to this procedure this year to hopefully prevent Colt McCoy from seeing the field ever again... er... preventing concussed players from getting back on the field:
Me: How do you expect the system to work this year?
Goodell: "The player has to self-report and has to tell professionals. We have spotters, as you know, our ATC [athletic trainers] spotters program, which we implemented late in the season to sort of identify hits that would require an evaluation. That will be expanded and fully in place this season. There's an ATC, which is an athletic trainer who's not active right now, but they'll be upstairs. They will have access to all the video and if they see a hit that involves a significant blow to the head or if a player demonstrates any kind of dizziness or potential slowness to get up, they call down to the sideline and make sure the medical professional has that number and they can go make an evaluation ... Now we have the technology to send the play down to the field, so that if a medical personnel wants to look at that, they can look at the play and that has been very helpful in the playoffs. It's almost like the instant replay setup. You'll see the equipment down behind the bench area. The ATC spotter can actually, just like we do with instant replay, send a play down if the trainer or the doctor wants to see a play. They can look at the play and see what they call the mechanisms of injury. That's the term that's used. Through the mechanism of injury, you can determine, 'OK, I need to look at that.' It's a tremendous tool for the doctors.
Me: Would the Colt McCoy story have been different with this set-up?
Goodell: "He was examined, but they were focusing on his hand, because that's what he was complaining about. There are two or three injuries on that one play that happened in different places ... I have to go back and look, but I'm quite certain we had the ATC spotter when the Colt McCoy hit happened. What was happening though was the doctors were in looking at him [at his hand, not his head], so the ATC spotter said, 'Well, he's being evaluated, so that's fine.' What was the fallacy in it is that they were evaluating the wrong thing. What we're going to do now is to say regardless of whether you see them being evaluated, you are to speak to them and you are to tell them that there is head-to-head contact and here's the play and look at it. You would have seen the Colt McCoy hit and would have said, 'Forget his thumb now. Let's focus on if he had any type of injury to his head.' ... He would not have gone back in after three or four plays. One of the things we're learning about concussions is sometimes the symptoms don't occur for several minutes. We don't know about the brain. It may just not be apparent for some period of time and that's another complicating factor to this."
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