Concussions were up in 2019. Here’s the NFL’s plan to keep players safe in Super Bowl.

January 28, 2020

Miami Herald -Adam Beasley

NFL concussions were up slightly in 2019, and the league is redoubling efforts in the Super Bowl to ensure anyone who sustains a head injury during the game gets the appropriate care.

During a player health and safety tour of Hard Rock Stadium Tuesday, the NFL’s chief medical officer said there will be an additional unaffiliated neurotrama consultant (UNC) on the field Sunday, adding a layer of redundancy for the league’s biggest game.

These medical professionals, who are employed by the league and not by individual teams, confer with team doctors during concussion evaluations to determine whether a player should be cleared to return or ruled out.
“He’s available to either sideline,” said Allen Sills. a neurosurgeon specializing in the treatment of athletes. “If one of the team neurotrama consultants has to vacate the sideline to go to the locker room for an evaluation, we want to make sure the sideline is covered at all times.”

Why?

The league is still doing “a deep dive” into understanding why the numbers are up, a process that should take a month, Sills said.

“The practice concussions did go down quite a bit, which we were gratified for, but the game concussions did go up,” he said. “What we found was people who did not make the roster were three times as likely to have a concussion in the preseason. That’s one where you wonder, is it the skill of the players or is it timing of the game? I’m not a football expert, but that’s the sort of observation that you try to look at as you dive a little deeper into the incidences. We’ll have more to say about that in a few weeks.”

Sills and Jeff Miller, the league’s executive vice president of health and safety innovation, guided a tour of Hard Rock for reporters Tuesday, showing off features like the onfield injury replay monitor, the blue examination tent (which is mandatory for head injuries, but teams have chosen to use them for most any injury) and the independent certified athletic trainers spotters booth, which provides an extra set of eyes.

Those spotters have the ability to communicate directly with officials to pull a potentially concussed player out of the game for evaluation. There were 19 independent medical timeouts for player evaluations in 2019, Sills said, but only two of those examinations resulted in a confirmed concussion.

▪ The University of Miami might not have a player representing the school in Super Bowl 54 on Sunday, but UM is still playing a role leading up to the game.

The San Francisco 49ers are practicing on the university’s campus this week as they prepare to face the Kansas City Chiefs.

“We went to Miami [Monday],” San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We had a 45-minute walk-through and then came back. We’ll go to Hard Rock on Saturday.”

The 49ers have had a light practice schedule so far, with that walk-through being their lone on-field work since arriving in Miami. They will practice at UM the rest of the week before going through the final walk-through at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday.

The Chiefs will practice at the Dolphins’ training facility at Nova Southeastern University in Davie.

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