On January 24 2018, the NFL and NFL Players Association completed their review of the application of the Concussion Protocol involving Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton during Carolina’s game against the New Orleans Saints on January 7. The review encompassed game footage and medical reports, as well as public statements and interviews with Mr. Newton and Coach Ron Rivera. Members of the Panthers’ medical team and the independent medical personnel assigned to the game, including all Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultants (UNCs) and the two ATC Booth Spotters, were also interviewed.
Detailed below, the review established that there was no protocol violation. Mr. Newton was properly evaluated for a concussion in the sideline medical tent and did not sustain a concussion.
The review determined the following:
- Mr. Newton sustained an injury to his right eye.
- Mr. Newton sustained an abrasion over his right eye and foreign matter in his eye as a result of the tackle.
- The fact that Mr. Newton sustained an eye injury is apparent from the video footage of the tackle and was confirmed by all the medical personnel that treated Mr. Newton on that day (including the UNC). Mr. Newton told the parties conducting the review that he was taking himself off the field due to his eye injury, which made it difficult for him to see. Mr. Newton told the parties that he never experienced any balance problems or other concussion symptoms.
- The review established that at no point during the incident did Mr. Newton report or display any signs of a concussion or that would require a locker room examination.
- When Mr. Newton took a knee as he was walking off the field, he did so at the direction of multiple members of the Panthers sideline coaching and medical staffs.
- Coach Rivera told the parties conducting this review that he instructed the quarterback coach to tell Mr. Newton to take a knee if he required medical treatment. That instruction was relayed by the coach to Mr. Newton via coach-to-quarterback radio transmittal.
- At the same time as the coach was providing his instruction by radio, Mr. Newton encountered a member of the Panthers athletic training staff, who had walked onto the field to examine Mr. Newton. That athletic trainer advised Mr. Newton to take a knee so he could examine Mr. Newton’s right eye.
- Mr. Newton told the parties conducting this review that he took a knee as he walked off the field because: (1) he was instructed to do so by his coach and (2) he wanted to show the athletic trainer his eye injury for the athletic trainer to remove the foreign matter. As outlined below, he did not lose his balance or trip as he went to the turf.
- This sideline dialogue was confirmed during the review and can also be seen on NFL Films video of the incident.
- Mr. Newton did not display “gross motor instability,” which would have necessitated a locker room evaluation in the Concussion Protocol.
- Based on direct observations and review of the incident, the medical professionals involved did not believe Mr. Newton demonstrated “gross motor instability.” This includes the team ATCs, team physicians, the game UNC, the “central” UNC who monitored the game remotely, and the booth ATC spotters.
- This group had reviewed the new NFL policy on this point prior to the game and was aware and observant about this policy. Each testified that Mr. Newton’s gait and behavior after the hit did not meet this definition.
- Mr. Newton rose to his feet immediately after the tackle and began jogging to the sideline. He demonstrated no difficulty in standing or in jogging towards the sideline.
- Mr. Newton suffered a knee injury earlier in the game, which was documented by the club medical staff and is depicted on game film. This injury limited the movement of his right knee in certain positions.
- As a result of his knee injury when Mr. Newton elected to “take a knee” while coming off the field, he did so in an awkward fashion because he could not bend his right knee normally.
- The doctors treating Mr. Newton during the incident under review were aware of the prior right knee injury.
- An MRI of the knee the day after the game confirmed ligament and cartilage damage and very extensive swelling in the knee.
- The medical team acted with an abundance of caution.
- Despite having only eye and knee symptoms, due to the nature of the tackle and out of an abundance of caution the Panthers medical staff opted to administer the NFL sideline concussion assessment in addition to caring for the eye injury.
- The sideline concussion assessment included all the required elements including video review of the hit by both team medical staff and UNC. The concussion assessment was entirely normal.
- As a result of a normal concussion evaluation, and after consultation by the team medical staff with all the independent personnel, Mr. Newton was cleared to return to the game once his eye injury was stabilized. At no time during the remainder of the game or after the game did Mr. Newton have concussion symptoms.
We urge restraint among those who attempt to make medical diagnoses based upon the broadcast video alone. Evaluation for a concussion requires not only an analysis of the broadcast video but an examination performed by a medical team familiar with the player and the relevant medical history. Review of this case confirmed again the vigilance, professionalism and conservative approach that is used by our NFL team medical staffs and independent medical providers. Each of these medical professionals is committed to the best care of our NFL players and is not influenced by game situation or the player’s role on the field. To suggest otherwise is irresponsible and not supported by the medical facts.
Data provided by NFL Communications