Shockingly, it turns out that Jahleel Addae does have a concussion.
In case you missed it, Addae was kept on the field in the Chargers TNF loss to the Denver Broncos, despite being quite obviously concussed. It's the second time in just four days that the Chargers checked someone over for a concussion, before allowing them to keep on playing when they were clearly unfit to be doing so.
Brandon Flowers suffered a concussion against the Chiefs on Sunday, and after going back into the game for another defensive series he wasn't cleared to play against the Broncos. (As a sidenote, it was Addae who pointed out to the Chargers that Flowers wasn't fit to be playing).
While the Chargers staff made a huge error, the greater problem lies in the NFL's concussion policy.
The test they administer to players on the sideline can be found here. The first problem with it is that a huge part of the test lies with the player, and the responses they give in regards to how they're feeling. The second section asks players to answer questions on a scale of 1-6 (6 being the highest) such as whether they have balance problems, dizziness or problems concentrating. If they answer 1 for each of these questions, they'll be let back onto the field instantly.
- Jahleel Addae denies he was obviously concussed
- Michigan apologise after mishandling of concussion
- Chargers staff needlessly risked a players life
Jamaal Charles' Lies
Just this week, Jamaal Charles admitted that he didn't want to go through the concussion protocol for fear of being taken out of the game against the Chargers. Chiefs staff said that they checked him over briefly, and found no symptoms. Most likely because he lied about having any.
Charles admitted on a radio show a day after that he saw flashing lightbulbs after the hit he took (the same one that left Brandon Flowers with a concussion) and that he wasn't feeling right. But because he wanted to play, he "passed" the test.
Most of the questions that ask a player how they are can - and should - be done by giving the player a simple test to do. Rather than ask if they're sensitive to light, let the trainer see for himself and monitor the player's reaction to having a light shone in his face. They ask the player whether they have trouble concentrating and remembering - despite that coming later where the trainer gives them a simple task to do. Scrap any question that asks the player how they feel if it can be evaluated by a trainer instead.
The NFL has a win at all costs mindset. A player coming out of the game with an injury is seen as weak and a traitor to his team. Coming out the game means someone else taking your place - if they play well, your job could be in jeopardy. You can't stop players wanting to play when they shouldn't, but you can stop them being able to make that decision on their own.
Unfortunately, it's not just the players who may not be wanting to tell the whole truth. A player with a concussion is checked over by the team's medical staff. If a player is judged to be unable to continue by the team doctors, the head coach loses a player and probably isn't too happy with the decision. A loss in that game may then be blamed on the medical staff for keeping the player out - especially with something like a concussion, where players have previously completed a game at their normal level with no visible problems.
Therefore, it's usually in their best interest to keep a player in the game whenever they can to avoid irking the wrath of the front office and coaching staff. The head coach has a large say in what staff he wants working under him - if your boss tells you that they want a certain player to stay in the game, how can you argue?
This is why all brain injuries should be checked by an independent doctor with no relation to either team to make sure that players really are fine to be continuing. The NFL recently had a concussion lawsuit on their hands, where more than 4,500 ex-players challenged the NFL. They agreed a settlement that had an individual formula for every player to determine what type of compensation they should receive, ranging from $25,000 up to $5 million. If the NFL wants to avoid more situations like that, independent doctors are a step that they need to take. Soon.
Lastly, the test gives each player a "score" for how they did. The chances are that if they don't score too highly, they'll be cleared to return. If you weren't concussed, you'd score 1 at the most. If a player scores 8, that's a low enough score and they'll instantly be passed and sent back into the game.
If a player scores just 2 or 3, that's still a sign that they may have something wrong with them. For the medical staff to say that he has some symptoms but he's done well enough to be allowed back into the game is absurd. "Well, you scored 20, but you're probably fine to go back in because it's not that high, right?"
This is an NFL approved test. To me, it's obvious that they need to change it. Now. I'm surprised there hasn't been a lawsuit in relation to the test already. How can you approve a test that lets players back into a game as long as they aren't "too concussed"?
We all love the NFL. It's a great game. But it is just a game. No game is worth risking a player's life over.