What Does The NFL Concussion Protocol Mean For Andre Johnson?

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Houston Texans fans held their collective breath, when wide receiver Andre Johnson went down with what was later determined to be a concussion last Sunday. He's been going through a "concussion protocol" before he is cleared to play again. 

Andre Johnson was 1 of at least 4 players in the NFL who suffered concussions in the second week of play.

Dr. Ken Podell is co-director of the Methodist Concussion Center here in Houston. He says the NFL has set up a very detailed and comprehensive protocol for assessing and returning its players from a concussion.

"Initially starts with an on-field assessment of the player who might have been suspected of having a concussion, as typically done by someone on the medical team. Could be the team doctor, athletic trainer or now for the first time, the NFL has a rule where each stadium has a concussion specialist on the sideline."

It's up to the team to whether or not they want to use the specialist.

Dr Podell says the player is assessed in a quiet area, and if a concussion is diagnosed, the player is taken out of the game for further testing over the next few days.

"If they are diagnosed with a concussion that will trigger a series of evaluations, depending on the symptoms of the signs of the concussion. At the very least, they will undergo neuro-psychological testing, a computerized testing that they all did at baseline. They will re-administer the protocol called the SCAT, the Sideline Concussion Assessment Tool, that has been modified for the NFL."

And finally, the player must be cleared to return to play by an independent neurologist.

Dr. Mark Cousins is director of athletics for the University Interscholastic League, the governing body that oversees public school sports in Texas. He says concussions can happen in any sports activity that involves contact.

"Even in a volleyball game, a student can bang their head on the floor, or run into another player. So I mean the thought of, and the possibility of a kid sustaining a head injury is pretty much present in any activity a student does, whether it's at their school or in their local community, or anywhere else."

He says UIL schools work under a mandated concussion management protocol.

"In 2011, the legislature passed the law that spells out specifically how students are to be handled in reference to when a head injury is suspected, and then also require that each school district develop their own concussion management protocol  to determine how a student, who is suspected of having a head injury, would be able to return to participation." 

Dr. Cousins agrees with others who say head injuries serve as a reminder that preventative measures, diagnostic protocols and medical interventions must continue to improve, in order to assure the players' safety.

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Pat Hernandez

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Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...