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Cam Newton investigation results in changes to concussion protocol

Both sides agreed that the Panthers didn’t violate concussion protocol, but that changes to enhance player safety could be made.

Carolina Panthers v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The NFL and the NFL Players Association each launched independent investigations to determine whether someone failed to follow the league’s protocol and remove Cam Newton to be evaluated for a concussion five weeks ago, when Newton suffered multiple hits to the head in the Carolina Panthers’ season opener against the Denver Broncos.

On Wednesday, that investigation was concluded. While the NFL found that a spotter determined Newton didn’t suffer a concussion, issues with communication between the spotter and the sideline were addressed and adjustments were made to the league’s concussion protocol.

“The key finding of the NFL/NFLPA investigation into Cam Newton's health in Week 1 was that, by the time medical officials determined that Newton should be examined for a possible concussion, the ATC spotter no longer had the ability by rule to stop the action with a medical timeout,” ESPN’s Kevin Seifert wrote. “So Newton remained in the game and was not examined until the end of the possession.

“The league has changed the protocol to ensure that the ATC spotter remains in contact until he or she has confirmed that an examination has occurred.”

In a joint statement released by the NFL and NFLPA, referee Ed Hochuli was praised for removing Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor in September to be evaluated for a concussion.

“The club medical team and unaffiliated neuro-trauma consultant reviewed the video and conducted the required examination, cleared Taylor and returned him to the game,” the statement reads. “Hochuli's decision to send Taylor to the sideline for evaluation after spotting an observable sign of possible concussion, demonstrates a conservative and therefore appropriate application of the concussion protocol.”

The players union was concerned that there was a lack of oversight for Newton’s safety because of a lack of a cognitive exam on the sidelines. It’s the first investigation of its kind.

The day after the game, NFL.com’s Judy Battista said that despite cameras not catching Newton undergoing evaluation after one of the hits, medical officials tended to him during a stoppage of play.

If the investigations conducted by the union and the league hadn’t reached the same conclusions as to whether the protocol was violated in Newton’s case, the two sides would have headed to arbitration to resolve the matter.