Concussions and the NFL

Nancy Harris Bonk Health Guide
  • Colt McCoy, quarterback for the Cleveland Browns took a dramatic helmet-to-helmet hit in a game recently. The illegal hit left him with an injured hand and quite dazed. He sat out for the next two plays, which totaled about three minutes, then returned to the game. Unbeknownst to the Browns staff he sustained a concussion during that play. McCoy never received the SCAT₂ (Sports Concussion Assessment Tool) due to the fact he was not symptomatic; and no one from the team saw the hit. They were busy with two other concussed players.


    Anyone watching the game could see that the hit McCoy took had the potential for major concussive impact. But because McCoy's symptoms didn't start right away, he told the team's medical staff he "felt good" and was put back in the game. You see, when someone sustains a concussion (a traumatic brain injury) the symptoms may not start for hours or even days after the initial injury. These symptoms can include headache, sensitivity to light (photophobia), dizziness, sensitivity to sound (phonophobia) and more. And this is exactly what happened to McCoy. In the locker room after the game, he began to feel "funky" and was startled by a loud noise. He also asked the television crew to turn down the lights during post game interviews. That's when the team decided to take a look at him.

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    Since then McCoy has been sent home from practice five times and did not play in Arizona this past weekend. The reports state he is covering, but no one knows for sure when he will be cleared to play. There is a tremendous amount of controversy surrounding the fact that McCoy wasn't tested after his hit. So much so, the NFL Players Association is considering to file a grievance against the Cleveland Browns or at least request changes be made in the way players are treated during games.


    This is James Harrison's (the player who delivered the illegal hit to McCoy) fifth penalty for roughing a quarterback. He has been fined multiple times and has now been suspended for a game. He just doesn't seem to get it. The NFL's rule book now includes tougher regulations stating quite clearly; "it is a foul if (a) an opponent forcibly hits the quarterback's head or neck area with his helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, or (b) if an opponent lowers his head and makes forcible contact with the top/crown or forehead/"hairline" parts of his helmet against any part of the quarterbacks body." That is exactly what Harrison did; made forcible contact with his helmet against the helmet of McCoy. has appealed his suspension and stated that he doesn't intend to change the way he plays the game. Has he sustained too many hits to the head? If he continues to maliciously hurt players, the NFL will surely have to do something about him.


    If the players don't follow the rules, whose responsibility is it to make sure these guidelines are followed? Since the NFL is the "governing" body of professional football, I would think it's their job. What do you think?    


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    Schefter, Adam. "Source: McCoy nearly recovered." ESPN. NFL. Updated December 18, 2011.


    Wilson, Brad. "NFL's suspension of Pittsburgh's James Harrison shows teeth in new rules limiting hits, and more from the NFL for Week 15." The Express Times. December 18, 2011.


    Withers, Tom. "Holmgren: Browns did not check McCoy on sideline." Chronc.Com. Sports. Updated December 15, 2011.


    National Football League. "2011 Official Playing Rules and Casebook of the National Football League." 2011.



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    ©HealthCentral Network, 2011.
    Last updated December 19, 2011

Published On: December 19, 2011