More NFL concussion controversy has erupted after Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton took a hit in Sunday’s wild-card game against the New Orleans Saints and appeared to suffer the symptoms of a concussion. But instead of going to the locker room as the League’s brand-new concussion rules require, Newton was evaluated on the sideline and returned to the game in four minutes.
Just after Saints defensive tackle Tyeler Davison tackled Newton with 9:12 left in the fourth quarter, defensive tackle David Onyemata pummeled Newton hard in the head. Newton was slow to stand back up and then, as he was jogging off the field, he fell to his knees where he stayed for a few moments before being ushered to the sideline.
Officials announced that Newton was being examined for a concussion on the sideline, yet he missed just one play before returning to the game and closing out the game with a 26-31 loss to the Saints. The Panthers were down five points when Newton was hit.
New concussion rules were implemented on Dec. 11, just one day after Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage took a hit while playing the San Francisco 49ers. Mr. Savage remained on the ground after being hit on a third-down play, his arms outstretched and twitching in a seizure-like manner known to concussion experts as a “fencing response.”
Team doctors evaluated Mr. Savage on the field, but instead of docking him and treating his concussion, they returned him to the game. It wasn’t until he threw two incompletions on the ensuing drive that a concussion spotter in the booth called for further evaluation of Mr. Savage. In the locker room, medical examiners weren’t satisfied with his condition and clocked him out, but by then the damage may have been done. Treatment of concussion calls for immediate inactivity following the head injury.
The new provisions in the NFL’s concussion protocol “Require a locker room concussion evaluation for all players demonstrating gross or sustained vertical instability (e.g., stumbling or falling to the ground when trying to stand).”
Newton said that he got poked in the eye during the tackle: “… it wasn’t my head, it was my eye. My helmet had came down low enough over my eyelid and it got pressed into the player’s stomach, I believe. I thought maybe somebody stuck his finger in my eye.”
After the game, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Newton’s falling to his hands and knees was a ruse to give Derek Anderson some extra warm-up throws.
Whatever bold claims were made about the incident, the fact remains that the NFL didn’t follow its own concussion recognition and treatment rules.