Sideline Doctors Face Scrutiny After Hits to a Star Quarterback - The New
York Times (nytimes.com)
The sidelines at N.F.L. games are better staffed than many emergency rooms.
There are orthopedists, neurotrauma specialists, athletic trainers and
even an “emergency airway intubation” specialist. In the press
box, medical experts scan the field to spot any potential head injuries
that might have been missed below.
Yet for all its medical firepower, the league is again under scrutiny,
this time over how some of those doctors
diagnosed a head hit to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa of the Miami Dolphins two weeks ago. After holding his helmet, struggling
to get up and falling again, Tagovailoa was taken to the locker room,
examined and allowed to return to that game.
The N.F.L. at first said that the Dolphins team doctor and unaffiliated
neurotrauma consultant who evaluated Tagovailoa had followed established
protocols. But the N.F.L. Players Association initiated a joint investigation
into the incident and, after Tagovailoa suffered an
even bigger head hit in a game four days later and left the field on a stretcher, the union,
in an unprecedented move,
dismissed the unaffiliated consultant.
The episode has shined new light on the doctors tasked with caring for
the players and the protocols they must follow when diagnosing potential
Experts in brain injuries say that there remains no objective tool to identify
a concussion and that many symptoms occur hours and even days later, two
factors that complicate doctors’ decisions about whether to pull
a player from a game. Elite athletes can often handle the physical tests
designed to gauge their balance and motor skills. And even players who
are disoriented may be able to pass the cognitive tests.
“People have this idea that N.F.L. players are dumb, but they’re
not,” said Uzma Samadani, a neurosurgeon who was an unaffiliated
neurotrauma consultant for four years at Minnesota Vikings games and developed
an eye-tracking device to more definitively diagnose concussions. “Many
players can pass this test even if they’re concussed.”