Concussion Observer, A Step in the Right Direction

The NFL has made another move forward in an effort to better improve concussion monitoring this week.  ESPN has reported that the league sent a memo to all 32 clubs that, starting with the Thanksgiving Day games, a “league observer” will be present at every game in the press box to provide another set of eyes to look for signs of undetected injuries.

ESPN has obtained a copy of the memo, which reads, “A direct ring-down phone line must be in place from the NFL Observer position in the press box to both the home and visiting bench areas.”

“This line should be clearly marked on the NFL Observer’s phone. The purpose of the additional phone lines is to allow the NFL Observer to alert the Athletic Training staff to a possible injury that may have been missed at field-level.”

Chargers Kris Dielman

The purpose of the observer is simply to provide additional eyes to identify potential injuries, but to leave the medical management of the injuries in the hands of the physicians and the Athletic Training staff.

Dr. John Sullivan, clinical sports psychologist with over 12 years working with NFL athletes, said, “It’s a step in the right direction.  Anything we can do to be more vigilant about concussion monitoring is helpful.”

He went on to add, “We need to continue to work on improving identification of concussions, as well as developing better protocols for making return-to-play decisions.  We’ve made some good progress in recent years, but we’ve still got a long way to go.”

The action follows an incident last month when Chargers guard Kris Dielman was visibly staggering after a collision on a play, and although the effects of the injury were plainly visible to those watching on TV, the medical staff on the sidelines could not see the injury and weren’t told until after the game.

Dielman flew home from New York to San Diego with the team and suffered a seizure on the flight.  He was placed on injured reserve last week and is still recovering from the effects of the concussion.

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