If you need any more evidence that the NFL is taking concussions more seriously, look no further than the fact that two teams are being chastised for failing to keep their concussed players off the field in crucial playoff games.
Drs. Hunt Batjer and Richard Ellenbogen, chairmen of the league's head, neck and spine committee, wrote a letter stating that two players violated the NFL's concussion protocol during this past weekend's Wild Card Round action, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com):
The doctors did not identify the players, but one was Green Bay tackle David Bakhtiari, who went into the game for an extra-point try despite being examined for a concussion and not cleared. The other player was Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis, who remained on the sideline but did not get back on the field.
"On two occasions last weekend, and contrary to the advice of the team medical staffs, players who had been diagnosed with a concussion and therefore declared ineligible for play nonetheless refused to leave the sidelines as required by league concussion protocols," the letter said. "In one case, the player went back onto the field for one play before being removed from the game."
The doctors found "no fault" in how the team medical staffs conducted themselves.
The case of Lewis, in particular, was attracting a lot of attention during the New Orleans Saints' eventual 26-24 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. The 27-year-old's absence was felt in a big way, as he was the best corner in an injury-ravaged secondary. During the NBC broadcast, you could see Lewis on the sideline pleading with team doctors to let him back on the field.
According to Grantland's Jason Bailey, Cris Collinsworth, who was calling the game with Al Michaels, said, "When I was playing football, he would be back in the game. The doctors now are taking a much stronger approach to this issue."
Concussions have become a major hot-button issue for the NFL. While it's never good to see a player leave a game after suffering a head injury, it should be heartening for fans that the league is taking it more seriously than in years past.
Although head trauma is inherent in a sport predicated on violent collisions, this is at least another positive step by the NFL toward reducing concussions.
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