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NFL, NFLPA say improvements in concussion protocol necessary after Tom Savage incident

Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage (3) is checked by a referee after he was hit against the 49ers on Dec. 10. (AP)

The scary and troubling incident with Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage playing through an obvious concussion has already brought about changes in the NFL’s concussion protocol, with more on the way.

The NFL and NFLPA released a statement that said there will be no punishment based on what happened, but both parties admitted changes need to be made “to prevent such an unacceptable outcome in the future.” Savage was hit hard on Dec. 10, and was seen shaking on the ground while an official was right in front of him. Savage came out of the game but re-entered after he was checked out on the sideline. He was pulled from the game for good shortly after returning, and eventually went on injured reserve with a concussion. There was a lot of justified criticism after how that situation was handled.


On Friday, the NFL and NFLPA said the medical staff followed the concussion protocol, but “the outcome was unacceptable and therefore further improvements in the Protocol are necessary.”

The NFL said the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant and team physician watched the initial broadcast video of the play, but didn’t see the slow-motion replay of Savage shaking on the ground was not broadcast until the sideline personnel had started its concussion test. Savage passed the concussion evaluation on the sideline, the statement said. The Texans continued to monitor Savage and he showed symptoms that were not present during the sideline evaluation so he was pulled from the game, the NFL and NFLPA said.

Among the changes the NFL and NFLPA said have already been implemented include having a centralized unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant at the league office to monitor the broadcast feeds of all games. Also, “Defined impact seizure and fencing responses as independent signs of potential loss of consciousness, representing ‘No-Go’ criteria under the current Protocol.” If players show those signs they will not be allowed back in the game. Players will have to undergo a locker room concussion evaluation if they demonstrate “gross or sustained vertical instability” such as stumbling. There will also be a third unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant for all playoff games and the Super Bowl who will serve as a backup if one of the first two UNCs are attending to an injured player.

The NFL has tried, with its various rules, to right a wrong and be more vigilant with concussions. The Savage incident and a few others show there are still too many instances in which there are breakdowns. It’s worthwhile for the league and the union to take what has worked and overhaul what hasn’t. It said in the statement there will be a comprehensive offseason review of the protocol, and that’s good.

Hopefully the current changes and whatever changes are to come can help the league avoid another situation like we saw with Savage a few weeks ago.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!