League ramps up post-concussion protocol

The NFL put more teeth behind its concerns over the long-term health of players that suffer concussions. The league released a new policy that broadens the tests players must pass before returning to action and an independent neurologist has to sign off on it.

For the last couple of years, Viking Update has been following the growing body of evidence concerning the long-term effects that concussions have taken on NFL players from previous eras in the NFL. Unfortunately, the result of many of those discussions has been that the league has been slow to react or acknowledge that playing in the NFL has been the cause of many of the health concerns that players from the 1960s and 1970s have endured. Former Viking Brent Boyd summed his feelings about how the league has addressed former players' attempts to get disability payments, saying the league policy has been "delay, deny and hope they die."

However, over the past few months, the league has taken a much different approach to current players going through similar injuries, imposing a new rule about players returning to practice from head injuries.

The old standard, which was adopted in 2007, simply said a player shouldn't return to a game if he was knocked unconscious. A memo from the league to all 32 teams distributed Wednesday said that any player who sustains a concussion shouldn't return to the game if he shows certain signs or symptoms of a concussion, including short-term memory loss, dizziness, headaches or the inability to remember play assignments.

The memo goes on to say that players are encouraged to be candid with team medical personnel and fully disclose any symptoms or signs that may be associated with suffering a concussion. Almost 20 percent of players surveyed in an informal study by the Associated Press in November claimed that they have hidden or downplayed the effects of having a concussion to return to action.

The new policy was developed in a cooperative effort between the league's concussion committee, outside medical experts, team doctors and the players association and will be more far-reaching.

According to the policy, once removed from a game or practice, a player shouldn't be considered to return to action until all symptoms disappear and he had been cleared by both a team doctor and an independent neurological consultant.

Vikings guard Anthony Herrera has been a player recently sat down while he attempts to recover from a concussion. Herrera declined interview requests Wednesday, but is far from alone. Super Bowl quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger both sat out last week's games – both of their teams lost – due to concerns over post-concussion problems, and Cleveland running back Jamal Lewis was put on injured reserve Wednesday with post-concussion symptoms, which will likely end his playing career.

It would appear that after years of denial that playing in the NFL has caused serious long-term effects for some players, the league and the players association are in agreement that the badge of honor players have for playing despite injury may have to take a backseat to their long-term health when it comes to concussions.


  • Herrera (concussion) and Benny Sapp (thumb/ribs) were the only Vikings to miss practice Wednesday. Six others – Antoine Winfield (foot), Bryant McKinnie (back), Chester Taylor (ribs), Visanthe Shiancoe (ribs) and Naufahu Tahi (ankle) – were all limited. Bernard Berrian (hamstring) and Adrian Peterson (ankle) were both listed on the injury report, but participated in full.

  • Kurt Warner returned to his full practice schedule for the Cardinals and is expected to return to action Sunday night.

  • Only two Cardinals missed practice Wednesday due to injury – offensive tackle Mike Gandy (pelvis) and tight end Stephen Spach (knee).

  • Brett Favre was named NFC Offensive Player of the Month for November, leading the Vikings to a 4-0 record, completing 70 percent of his passes (91 of 130), for 1,193 yards (a 298-yard average), 12 touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 129.4.

  • Percy Harvin was named NFC Offensive Rookie of the Month. In November, Harvin had 19 catches for 317 yards and three toucdhowns, four rushes for 54 yards and returned eight kickoffs for 239 yards (a 29.9-yard average). He leads the league with a 29.8-yard kickoff return average, is first among rookies with 602 receiving yards and is fifth overall in third-down receptions.

  • Former Vikings assistant coach Foge Fazio died Wednesday at the age of 71 after a long battle with cancer. He was the Vikings defensive coordinator from 1995-99 under Dennis Green and returned in 2005 as a defensive consultant for Mike Tice. All of us at VU that got to know and admire Fazio send our condolences to his family during the difficult days and weeks to come.

  • Viking Update Top Stories