Furthering their commitment to protecting the health and safety of NFL players, the NFL and NFLPA announced an agreement to enforce the NFL Game Day Concussion Protocol and discipline clubs that violate it.
Under the new policy, the NFL and NFLPA will follow a strict and fair process to investigate incidents and determine appropriate discipline, including club fines and possible forfeiture of draft picks.
The NFL and NFLPA, in conjunction with their medical advisory committees, implemented the NFL Game Day Concussion Protocol to address the diagnosis and management of concussions. The parties consistently review the Concussion Protocol to ensure that players are receiving care that reflects the most up to date medical consensus.
The new policy sets forth disciplinary action against a club should a member of its medical staff or other employee fail to follow the Concussion Protocol.
According to the policy, the NFL and NFLPA will each designate a representative to monitor the implementation of the protocol and investigate potential violations. An investigation will not reach medical conclusions; it will only determine whether the protocol was followed. Following an investigation, the NFL and NFLPA will review the findings to determine if a violation occurred and, if so, to recommend the proper disciplinary response.
If the parties are unable to agree, the matter will be brought to a third party arbitrator. After conducting a thorough review, the arbitrator will issue a report to the Commissioner, NFLPA Executive Director and the involved parties.
As jointly agreed to by the NFL and NFLPA, the Commissioner retains absolute discretion in determining penalties for violations of the concussion protocol. Potential disciplinary action includes:
- A first violation will require the club employees or medical team members involved to attend remedial education; and/or result in a maximum fine of $150,000 against the club.
- Second and subsequent violations of the concussion protocol will result in a minimum fine of $100,000 against the club.
- In the event the parties agree that a violation involved aggravating circumstances, the club shall be subject, in the first instance, to a fine no less than $50,000. The Commissioner shall determine appropriate discipline for subsequent violations involving aggravating circumstances.
- In the event that the Commissioner determines that the club’s medical team failed to follow the protocol due to competitive considerations, the Commissioner may require the club to forfeit draft pick(s) and impose additional fines exceeding those amounts set forth above.
The enforcement policy is one of many collaborations between the NFL and NFLPA to improve player health and safety:
- The NFL and NFLPA launched the NFL Electronic Medical Record (EMR) System across all 32 NFL clubs prior to the start of the 2014 season, resulting in more uniform and detailed injury data. The injury data is reviewed annually by the NFL, NFLPA, their medical advisory committees and the Competition Committee to make changes to the game to improve player safety.
- The NFL and NFLPA, through the Duke Infection Control Outreach Networks (DICON), implemented an infectious disease prevention and response program across all 32 NFL clubs. As part of that effort, DICON has visited every club and inspected their premises and developed a comprehensive plan to educate players and team staff about infection prevention.
- Through the Accountability & Care Committee and an independent credentialing verification organization, the NFL and NFLPA implemented league-wide credentialing standards for all members of team medical staffs.
- The NFL and NFLPA, through a third-party company, surveyed all NFL players in 2015 regarding their opinions on team medical care and other player health and safety issues. The survey, agreed to in the 2011 CBA, was confidential, and the results will be used by the NFL and NFLPA to identify potential areas of improvement in player medical care.
- This offseason the NFL and NFLPA established the Field Surface & Performance Committee, a joint committee to provide advice and guidance regarding the safety, performance and testing of non-NFL game day and practice surfaces. The new committee will perform research and advise the parties on injury prevention, improved testing methods, and the adoption of tools and techniques to evaluate and improve field surface performance and playability.
- The NFL, in collaboration with NFLPA-appointed experts, sponsored a study to assess the performance of football helmets worn by NFL players. A poster summarizing the results of the study hangs in all 32 NFL club locker rooms.
- The NFL and NFLPA jointly sponsored a study to assess the performance of football turf shoes worn by NFL players and determined that certain models presented an enhanced risk of injury. The parties created a poster summarizing the results of the study and advising players against wearing certain models of footwear which hangs in all 32 NFL club locker rooms.
- The NFL and NFLPA implemented the Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant (UNC) Program and the Independent Athletic Trainer (ATC) Spotter Program to improve sideline medical care on game day. UNCs, who are independent of either club, are involved in all in-game neurological assessments. Independent ATC spotters in the press box are empowered to call a medical timeout to stop the game and have a player receive medical attention should he show signs of distress or disorientation.