NFL to refs: Be aware of head injuries

Updated: November 3, 2011, 11:59 AM ET
By Chris Mortensen | ESPN

The NFL will instruct game officials to be more alert to concussion symptoms this week in the wake of the head trauma and subsequent seizure suffered by San Diego Chargers guard Kris Dielman on Oct. 23.

The NFL Injury and Safety Panel wants game officials better educated on obvious concussion symptoms. The weekly training tape that crews review with their referees before each game will include instruction on identifying concussion symptoms, and the league will provide officials with more detailed information about concussion symptoms.

There are plans to include doctors speaking on the subject next year when the NFL holds its annual officiating clinic, and other concussion protocols remain in discussion.

NFL Players Association medical director Dr. Thom Mayer told ESPN on Monday that there were "lessons to be learned" from the Dielman incident. The game's umpire, Terry Michalek, checked with Dielman after the Chargers lineman staggered backward after a hit early in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets. The Pro Bowl guard waved him off and remained in the game. Chargers team doctors had an obstructed view of the action from the sideline and were occupied with another injured player.

"We are taking the step on officials to make them alert to obvious concussion symptoms," Greg Aiello, the NFL's vice president of public relations, said. "We're not trying to train the officials to be doctors, but we're asking them to treat it like other injuries that may make it necessary to stop the game and get them medical attention, either on the field or by getting them off the field."

We're not trying to train the officials to be doctors, but we're asking them to treat (concussion symptoms) like other injuries that may make it necessary to stop the game and get (players) medical attention, either on the field or by getting them off the field.

-- Greg Aiello, NFL's vice president of public relations

The safety panel, which is composed of several doctors, discussed other potential concussion protocols, including requiring a CT scan and a more intensive observation period before a player is allowed to go home after a game.

The Chargers were not alerted to Dielman's potential concussion until an unidentified teammate came forward in the postgame locker room at MetLife Stadium. Dielman was allowed to take the cross-country flight home and suffered a seizure upon landing in San Diego. He has undergone further evaluation and it is uncertain when he will return to the playing field.

"There are many instances when a player has suffered an obvious concussion and he's laying on the ground and game officials do get the medical people on the field," Aiello said. "In this case (with Dielman), he never went to the ground but it was pretty clear he had symptoms, and it's now just another step to further educate and sensitize everybody to take a closer look and exercise the proper caution and action."

Chris Mortensen is ESPN's senior NFL analyst.

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