NFL to Review Concussion Protocols in Offseason

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2016

January 3, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; St. Louis Rams quarterback Case Keenum (17) passes the football during the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. The 49ers defeated the Rams 19-16. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

As the NFL continues to emphasize both preventing and properly treating concussions, a review of the current protocol is set to take place during the offseason.

According to Ken Belson of the New York Times, NFL senior vice president of health and safety policy Jeff Miller revealed that doctors and medical personnel will meet at the NFL Scouting Combine later this month to determine if any changes should be made to the policy.  

Per Belson, Miller admitted a Week 11 incident that saw then-St. Louis Rams quarterback Case Keenum stay in the game after suffering a concussion played into the decision to consider making alterations:

"This demonstrated an area where there were definitely not best practices," Miller said.

Miller's announcement comes on the heels of an ESPN Outside the Lines report by Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada that alleges the NFL has controlled concussion research through funding to fit its preferences.

NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee co-chairman Dr. Richard Ellenbogen begs to differ, per Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada:

What you are seeing is just how well-intentioned scientists debate the different approaches, how competitive the grants are, and fortunately how much interest there is in this research. This is not about the NFL stopping (brain research). Quite the opposite. ... The NFL directly or indirectly funded much of it to the tune of millions.

According to Ben Shpigel of the New York Times, the NFL reported 271 diagnosed concussions during the 2015 preseason and regular season, which was up 31.6 percent from the 206 diagnosed cases in 2014.

Miller actually views that as a positive step since it suggests players are now less willing and likely to hide head injuries in order to remain in the game, per Belson.

"That's a positive trend in terms of the culture change," Miller said.

The Keenum situation notwithstanding, Miller certainly seems to believe the NFL continues to make strides on the concussion front.

As is the case with regular on-field rules and regulations, it is a good idea for the league to keep an open dialogue and to remain receptive to potential changes that could lead to even more progress.

Miller didn't offer any hints as to what those changes could be, but as the general public becomes more educated on the long-term impact of concussions—due to the release of the Dr. Bennet Omalu-inspired movie Concussion and reports of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the brains of deceased football players—the need for the NFL to adapt and become safer increases.


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