Head trauma to players is a huge concern in the NFL, though the league has been accused of taking a lax approach to preventing it and dealing with the lasting effects for players. On Monday, the NFL announced a new policy to improve enforcement of its concussion protocols. Teams will now face fines and the loss of draft picks for violations.
According to a release from the NFL, the changes to the protocol were jointly agreed to by the league and the NFLPA. The release says the league and the NFLPA will each appoint a representative to oversee the execution of the new policy. As established by the CBA, commissioner Roger Goodell will have ultimate authority in administering punishments for teams that do not comply.
For first violations, teams could face:
- A fine of up to $150,000.
- Club employees or medical team personnel could be required to attend remedial education classes.
After a first violation, though, the severity of the consequences escalates rapidly.
- Second and subsequent violations result in a minimum $100,000 fine for the club.
- If the NFL and NFLPA representatives determine that there were "aggravating circumstances" involved in the violation, an additional fine of $50,000 can be assessed.
If it is determined by Goodell that the protocol was violated to maintain competitive advantage, it could result in more severe sanctions.
- Teams could face the loss of draft picks.
- The league may assess additional fines exceeding the amounts set forth above.
These changes have been in the works since December 2015. The league needed to adjust its approach to handling violations of the concussion protocol in part because of an incident involving Case Keenum last season. Keenum was quite obviously concussed, and he was not immediately removed from the game for appropriate medical attention.
After being consistently under fire for its approach to dealing with the problem of concussions and their lasting effects on players, the NFL has made a concerted effort to at least create the perception of improving the way it handles these injuries.
The NFL recently parted ways with Dr. Elliot Pellman, who was involved with the execution of the medical components of the league’s concussion protocol despite denying the existence of CTE.
That decision, as well as enforcing stricter penalties for teams that jeopardize player safety by not adhering to the protocol, are belated but necessary steps toward rebuilding trust and better protecting players from the lasting effects of head trauma.