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NFL's changes to concussion protocol to take effect this week; Browns won't be disciplined for handling of Colt McCoy's injury

By Nate Ulrich Published: December 21, 2011

The NFL has made changes to its concussion protocol in the aftermath of the incident involving the Browns and quarterback Colt McCoy.

McCoy played with a concussion Dec. 8 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He sat out two plays and re-entered the game after taking a vicious helmet-to-facemask blow from Steelers linebacker James Harrison with about six minutes left in the fourth quarter.

McCoy was not tested for a concussion on the sideline before he returned to action. Browns President Mike Holmgren said the standard Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 2 test was not administered because McCoy didn't immediately show any symptoms of a concussion and the team's trainers and doctors did not see Harrison's hit because they were working on other injured players on the sideline.

The lack of testing prompted the NFL and NFL Players Association to meet with the Browns and discuss changes to the league's protocol for handling concussions and how the team dealt with McCoy's injury.

The NFL will not discipline the Browns for their handling of McCoy's concussion, league spokesman Greg Aiello told the Beacon Journal today in an e-mail response.

McCoy has not practiced since he was hurt, and all signs point to backup quarterback Seneca Wallace starting Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens.

The NFL issued the following statement today to explain the changes it has made: 

After reviewing our protocols for managing concussions with the NFLPA, our own medical advisors (including team physicians and athletic trainers), and outside experts, NFL clubs have been notified of two changes that will take effect with this week’s games.

First, we have arranged for a certified athletic trainer to be at each game to monitor play of both teams and provide medical staffs with any relevant information that may assist them in determining the most appropriate evaluation and treatment. This athletic trainer will be stationed in a booth upstairs with access to video replay and direct communication to the medical staffs of both teams. In most cases, the athletic trainer will be affiliated with a major college program in the area or will have previously been affiliated with an NFL club. This individual will not diagnose or prescribe treatment, nor have any authority to direct that a player be removed from the game.  Instead, the athletic trainer’s role will be to provide information to team medical staffs that might have been missed due to a lack of a clear view of the play or because they were attending to other players or duties.  The athletic trainers are being identified and selected with the assistance of each club and the NFLPA.  Their fees and expenses will be paid by the NFL  office.

Second, club medical staffs will be permitted to use their cell phones during games for purposes of obtaining information relating to the care of an injured player.  This is not limited to concussions and is intended to assist team medical staffs in addressing a variety of injuries.

Clubs also were reminded of the importance of team coaching and medical staffs continuing to work together to ensure that full information is available at all times to medical staffs, that players do not take steps to avoid evaluations, and that concussions continue to be managed in a conservative and medically appropriate way.

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