The National Football League is probably the most popular sports league in America. Protecting the players is obviously important to the NFL. After all, the players are how the NFL makes money. With how hard players hit and how big some players are, there are going to be injuries, especially head injuries. The NFL has gotten better at protecting the players, however, they are still not protecting players who are diagnosed with with head injuries enough.
There has been an increase in the number of diagnosed concussions in the NFL. There were 271 diagnosed concussions in 2015. That was up 32% from 2014 in which there were 206 diagnosed concussions. It is also up from 2013 and 2012 where there were 229 in 2013 and 261 in 2012. The concussions counted are from all regular season games, all preseason games, and all practices from the beginning of training camp. Now the increase in concussions could be because the NFL is looking more closely for signs of a concussion, therefore increasing the number of diagnosed concussions. That, however, doesn’t explain how the number of concussions had been on the decline since 2012 before they rose in 2015. Also the two spotters at each game whose only jobs are to look for signs of a concussion, still miss obvious times
Late in a 2015 game between the Baltimore Ravens and the St. Louis Rams, Rams quarterback Case Keenum had been sacked and hit his head on the ground. He got up noticeably woozy and disoriented. He at the very least should have been evaluated for a concussion. The Rams even sent their head trainer out there after the hit, but he was not taken out of the game. The two spotters said they saw him talking with the trainer and assumed that he was then fine to continue playing. He then threw two incomplete passes and fumbled. After the fumble, the Ravens were able to kick a field goal as time expired to win the game. Case Keenum was diagnosed with a concussion after the game. Players who play while concussed leave themselves open to more and far worse concussions, as well as permanent brain damage, or the possibility of developing a neurological disease. Because the spotters missed the concussion, it could have changed Case Keenum's life forever.
Another instance of the spotters not doing their job occurred on the opening night of the 2016 season. The game was between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. The Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton repeatedly took hard hits to the head. During the course of the game he took at least four hard hits to his head. He was not only never checked for a concussion, but there was also no penalty yardage issued for illegal hits to the head. The spotters and independent neurologists can stop the game at any point to check a player for a concussion, but no one stopped the game. He wasn’t even examined for a concussion until after the game. Cam Newton was asked some questions about the hits and said, “It’s never fun getting hit in the head”. Cam Newton’s father, Cecil Newton, also had something to say about the game and said he was “grossly disgusted” about the hits. Cecil added, “If the league is going to be married to the concussion protocol, first of all start it with the officials because they mandate behavior on the field. The league should be consistent with penalty calls no matter who it is against. I’m beginning to question the consistency of how games are being called, and who they call this particular play against this particular player”. He used the fact that his son, Cam Newton, is usually the biggest player on the field. Cam stands at 6 foot 5 inches and weighs 245 pounds, so a hit from a smaller player to the head would not look as bad as a hit from a larger player. One hit he took showed a smaller player leaving his feet and launching himself at Cam. No penalty was called even though it is against league rules. He was also the NFL MVP the year before, meaning the referees should be looking more closely for dirty plays against the MVP. The spotters did not get the MVP from the previous season checked for a concussion. So if they will not check the MVP for one, then who will they check?
There should be a revision to the way the NFL handles concussions. Whether that means having more spotters in booths, spotters watching the game on TV, or spotters down on the field. This is needed because clearly there is either not enough spotters, or the spotters are not doing their job. If the spotter does miss a concussion, the spotter should be punished. That means that they should either get find or possibly fired. Such a harsh punishment is needed because the effects of playing with a concussion can not only hurt a player in the present, but it could hurt them far worse it the future.