Committee reminds doctors to keep concussed players off sideline

By Bill Bradley, contributing editor

A memo obtained by NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport from the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee's Dr. Hunt Batjer and Dr. Richard Ellenbogen reminded team physicians and trainers to not allow potentially concussed players to return to play.

The memo, which was sent Thursday, appeared to be in regards to Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari, who forced his way back onto the field while he was being evaluated for a concussion during last Sunday's playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers.

The memo said:

On two occasions last weekend, and contrary to the advice of the team medical staffs, players who had been diagnosed with a concussion and therefore declared ineligible for play nonetheless refused to leave the sidelines as required by league concussion protocols. In one case, the player went back onto the field for one play before being removed from the game.

As you know, the "Madden Rule," requires that a player who has been diagnosed with a concussion be removed from the sidelines and taken to the locker room or another quiet location. We recognize that players may resist this step, particularly during postseason play. But it is an important element of the league's protocol and intended to safeguard the player's well-being and enhance his ability to recover from his injury.

We emphasize that we find no fault in how the team medical staffs conducted themselves last weekend. If a player refuses to follow your advice and leave the sidelines after being diagnosed with a concussion, we recommend that the Head Athletic Trainer seek assistance from the player's position coach (or another member of the coaching staff) or from another team official to remove the player from the sidelines as soon as possible.

Bakhtiari, a rookie who was able break away from his examination, returned to the field to participate in the PAT attempt following a fourth-quarter touchdown. Once he came back to the sideline, he was taken to the locker room for an evaluation and was later declared out with a concussion.

The Associated Press said the other player referred to in the memo was Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis, who stayed on the sideline but did not return to the field.

The league has been strict about having its concussion diagnosis protocol once a player is suspected of suffering a head injury.

The NFL Players Association said Friday it would urge its members to follow the league's protocols.

"We will continue working with the League to ensure that team doctors, coaches, trainers and other members of a team’s medical staff enforce return-to-participation protocols," the NFLPA said in a statement. "Players naturally want to play and ultimately, the game day medical and coaching staffs have the responsibility and obligation for player protection and care."