The National Football League has toughened its concussion rules following an incident where the Houston Texans quarterback returned to the field after a hit that was hard enough to leave him on the ground with his arms shaking.
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The more stringent guidelines for handling possible concussions during games were agreed upon by the league and the players' union, the Associated Press reported Friday.
Head injuries have been a serious concern in the NFL in recent years, and in 2017 the league reached a $1 billion settlement over concussion-related claims from more than 20,000 former players.
An expert will now watch games from a central location and have the authority to alert medical teams on the sidelines to investigate an incident, the wire service said. If the injured player shows signs of a seizure or similar responses, as the Texans quarterback Tom Savage did during a Dec. 10 game, they will be removed from play.
Savage was hurt when Elvis Dumervil drove him to the ground on a hit. Replays showed Savage looking dazed after his head hit the ground, with both of his arms shaking and lifted upward. He was taken to the medical tent where he stayed for less than 3 minutes before going back in for the next series.
After Savage threw two incompletions, the team doctor approached him. He was evaluated again and taken to the locker room after it was determined that he did have a concussion, the AP said.
In December, the Seattle Seahawks were fined $100,000 for not following concussion protocol with quarterback Russell Wilson during a November game. Seattle was the first team to be fined for a violation of the protocol. Seattle's medical staff and coaches also had to attend training sessions on the protocol, the wire service reported.
Dr. Hunt Batjer, the former co-chairman of the NFL committee on head, neck and spine injuries who chairs the department of neurological surgery at Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, told the AP that the latest moves were positive steps.
But he added that he believes more should be done to protect players.
"When a player has a suspicious either helmet-to-helmet or helmet-to-playing-surface hit and he's down on the field and play is stopped because of that play, then that person should be escorted to the locker room for a full exam," Batjer said. "So that should be added to this."
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