As much as the NFL has seemingly, at least on the surface, tried to do their part in curbing the occurrence and subsequent recognition and treatment of concussions in recent years, there have still been some notable examples of the league egregiously failing to step in during in-game situations during which a player has apparently suffered a concussion.
Just off the top of my head, prior to last season, there were notable examples including former Browns quarterback Colt McCoy, and even Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers during the 2015 Wildcard game against the Ravens, but the case that drew attention came last year when Rams quarterback Case Keenum suffered a concussion and was allowed to return to the game.
While the subsequent investigation into the circumstances around that incident yielded no discipline for any party involved, it no doubt was the impetus for a recently announced revision of enforcement of the concussion protocol, which pertains to the discipline that would be inflicted upon teams shown to fail to adhere to it.
First violations of minimal veracity are light enough, to be sure, which could amount to as little as a $50,000 fine and up to $150,000, and subsequent instances would escalate in terms of the financial punitive compensation owed.
But the part that is rightfully drawing the majority of the attention as it pertains to the revision of the protocol relates to violations in which it appears to have been clearly motivated by competitive circumstances.
The reason for this is rather simple. In the outline of the discipline for such violations, the new write up for the enforcement of the protocol states that the commissioner has the authority to seize draft picks in the event that a team put a player’s cognitive health at risk after seemingly suffering a concussion due to competitive necessity.
Monetary discipline in the six and seven figures it a pittance for NFL owners, and even for many players, and is hardly much to get nervous about, but forfeiture of draft picks should certainly put teams on notice when it comes to faithfully adhering to the concussion protocol.
One can’t help but wonder what sort of discipline the Rams might have received had the new protocol for enforcement been in place last season during the Case Keenum incident, but one now can only hope that there is not a repeat circumstance in the future to find out that answer.
As part of the new protocol, a representative of both the NFL and NFLPA will be assigned to “monitor the implementation of the protocol and investigate potential violations”. Should a dispute arise between the two representatives, a third-party arbitrator will investigate and present his findings to both parties.
While it is another step in the right direction, and a nice bit of public relations, it would be foolish to deny that the NFL, and the game itself, still has a ways to go in terms of appropriately addressing the reality and severity of head injuries that are too much a part of the game.