Monday, February 2, 2015

Super Bowl of Head Trauma

In my opinion (which of course is all you get in this blog), yesterday's Super Bowl was one of the very best.

Back and forth scoring, miraculous plays, nail biting suspense, and last second turn of events - all made this one of the most dramatic and entertaining football events of all time.

And of course I was thinking workers' compensation the whole time, particularly after Seattle Seahawks' Chris Avril was taken off the field and diagnosed with a concussion, which in the latest National Football League head trauma guidelines, means that he is not to return to the field, even for post game interview questions.

What I missed was that New England Patriot's receiver Julia Edelman also took a big hit to the head, but remained in the game even though there was plenty of speculation on the sidelines that he too had his bells loudly rung.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweeted that he could hear "independent medical doctors" in the press box radioing down to the sideline that Edelman should be checked for concussion.

NFL's published protocol would support this observation, as the NFL requires and "eye in the sky" looking for potential concussion issues.

"Players who are suspected of suffering a concussion are assessed by their team's medical staff. The team physician first reviews a six-item checklist outlining findings that necessitate a player's immediate removal from the game," according to the protocol.

Another report said that an observer at the game claimed he saw Edelman checked quickly on the sidelines, but that it likely did not conform to established NFL protocol because a full test should take 8 to 12 minutes, but shortly after the hit Edelman remained in the game to score the go-ahead touchdown.

It may be that the employer in this situation found a "loophole" in the protocol - if the player is not removed from the game, then the protocol doesn't come into play.

New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said, "This is typical of Julian, too — fighting the entire four quarters, physical. Getting knocked down numerous times and taking a bunch of big hits. He just keeps playing and playing and playing."

Edelman had missed the final two games of the regular season with a concussion.

The NFL over the past couple of years has worked hard to reduce its liability exposure for head trauma cases arising out of and in the course of employment.

Law suits were brought against the league and the teams, and the NFL sued its insurance companies for not providing coverage.

Ultimately the league settled the head trauma cases with a set aside fund that is debatably adequate to pay for these injuries, and legislation sponsored around the nation minimizing jurisdictional selection for workers' compensation benefits.

So, the difference between Avril and Edelman seems to be that Avril was diagnosed with a concussion. Edelman wasn't.

That proved prophetic for New England, as Edelman made a reception that set up New England for the game winning touchdown.

Would the outcome of the game have been different if Edelman was removed? We won't know.

And we may never know if in fact Edelman did have a concussion.

Two different teams, two different employers, two different players, all under the same "regulations" that get interpreted differently.

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