Monthly Archives: February 2013

Team Physicians Talk Concussion Protocol at NFL Combine

During a media session at the NFL Combine, Drs. Stanley Herring and Margot Putukian, both members of the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee, demonstrated the sideline concussion protocol employed to help diagnose players with possible head injuries.

Dr. Herring, who is the Team Physician for the Seattle Seahawks, serves as Chair of the Subcommittee on Advocacy and Education on the Head, Neck and Spine Committee. He explained the importance of the demonstration, saying that “the best thing to do…is walk you through an examination that we would do on the sideline or in the locker room in real time and show you what we’re doing so [you] can have a foundation to understand that once we have this data it helps us make a decision on whether an athlete may be concussed.”

He added that “no test is perfect.”

“Some athletes can perfectly pass all of this and still be concussed. This is our effort to help standardize an approach to a very challenging diagnosis.”

Dr. Putukian, who is the Head Team Physician at Princeton University, serves as Chair of the Subcommittee on Return-to-Play on the Head, Neck and Spine Committee. She emphasized the “elusive” nature of concussions, and the benefits of an added trainer viewing NFL games from in-stadium booths. The trainers “are helping our team physicians and medical staffs,” she said. “If they see something that they feel concerned about, then they can call down. The referees have been encouraged to also do what they need to do if a player needs to be evaluated.”

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Do Journalists Have a Duty to Protect Concussed Athletes?

A glance at some of the sports headlines earlier this week revealed a potentially troubling trend in journalism that needs to be addressed.

The headlines focused on the pending return of University of Florida basketball player Michael Frazier III from the concussion he suffered Saturday when his head hit the knee of a teammate in a game against the University of Arkansas.4927126030_a8eefab460

In short, the headlines suggested that Frazier may return “soon” or be “available” Saturday, just a week after suffering the head injury. The problem lies in the fact that expectations were being set that Frazier “should” return to action. It may be one thing to suggest that with a high ankle sprain on bruised ribs. It is quite another to make that suggestion with a head injury. Frazier may actually feel like he can play. But if he hasn’t passed the requisite tests, he should remain on the sideline.

As a journalist, I can tell you that our responsibility is primarily to the readers. What do they want to read about? What do they want to know? That said, journalists do protect the participants in a story. The victim in a sexual assault case is an example. While journalists don’t have to shield the identity of a concussion  victim, they may want to include language about the difficult and delicate decision about when to release an injured player back to action.

UF head Basketball Coach Bill Donovan, to his credit, seems to get it, noting that “ there’s a protocol they all have to go through with the doctors and trainer, steps they’ve got to go through in order for him to be cleared.”

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Appeals Court Affirms Ruling involving Concussion in Products Liability Case

A federal appeals has affirmed a jury’s decision in a products liability case, which found a manufacturer liable for the concussion suffered by a baseball umpire.

In so ruling, the panel of judges disagreed with manufacturer’s contention that the plaintiff’s evidence was faulty, the judge should have instructed the jury on the doctrine of assumption of risk, and that there was insufficient evidence supporting verdict.6798333574_b645b3ea33_z

The injury in question occurred in 2005 when the umpire was struck in the mask by a foul-tipped ball, causing a concussion and other injuries.

(The full summary of this judicial opinion will appear in the March issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter. Learn more about CLR here:

Photo by Tim Hipps

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