Head Cases: NFL to Add Concussion-Only Trainers to Games

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Jared Wickerham / Getty Images

Colt McCoy of the Cleveland Browns lays on the ground while speaking to athletic trainers after a helmet to helmet hit from James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game on December 8, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The NFL keeps saying it wants to take concussions seriously. So, for the first time, all NFL games will feature an independently certified athletic trainer designated to watch solely for concussion-related injuries. How’s that for serious?

The change comes on the heels of Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy returning to an NFL game two weeks ago despite the fact that he was likely suffering from a concussion. An illegal helmet-to-face mask hit courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ James Harrison, who was later suspended one game, leveled McCoy. The young quarterback left the game briefly, but wasn’t examined for a concussion and returned just two plays later. After the game he said he couldn’t remember the hit. McCoy hasn’t played since the Dec. 8 incident, still suffering from concussion symptoms.

(MORE: Study Ranks 10 Helmets for Concussion Safety)

As the NFL investigated the incident, the Browns staff said they didn’t test McCoy because he didn’t show signs of a concussion on the field or the sidelines and the medical staff never actually saw the hit because they were attending to other injuries at the time. So in steps the NFL.

The plan places the concussion-only trainer above the field of play, giving them an opportunity to alert either team when they feel concussion testing is needed, ensuring the trainers then follow NFL protocols for assessing possible head injuries.

MORE: NFL Unfolds a Standardized Concussion Test