Redskins should not have said Robert Griffin III was ‘shaken up,’ union’s medical director says [updated]

Robert Griffin III on the play on which he suffered a concussion Sunday (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

The Washington Redskins should not have used the phrase “shaken up” to describe the condition of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III during the game Sunday in which Griffin suffered a concussion, the medical director of the NFL Players Association said Monday.

“I spoke to [Redskins team physician] Tony Casolaro,” Thom Mayer, the union’s medical director, said in a telephone interview. “I’m not sure who used the term ‘shaken up.’ But he assured me it wasn’t him. It certainly wasn’t Tony. That’s not a medical term.”

The Redskins announced during the game that Griffin had been shaken up and that his return was questionable. Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said Griffin could not recall the score or the quarter after the hit and the team’s medical staff knew he’d suffered a concussion.

During his news conference Monday, Shanahan defended the team’s handling of the information released about Griffin’s concussion Sunday, although he conceded the club could have announced sooner that Griffin would not return to the game.

“When you look at it on the sideline, Robert said to me he’s fine,” Shanahan said. “I said, ‘No, you’re not fine. I don’t think you’re fine. Your eyes look a little glassy.’ Our doctors talked to him and he knew the quarter, knew the score. So they took him back into that little box behind our bench and asked him again what was the quarter, what was the score. The second time, he missed it…. So that’s when they took him into the locker room and administered the test, the concussion test. That’s when they decided that he had a concussion.”

Later, Shanahan said: “I knew, when he didn’t know the quarter, that the chances of him coming back were zero. Now, could that have been [announced] sooner? Possibly.”

Asked whether the use of the words “shaken up” is appropriate in the current climate of increased scrutiny about concussions, Shanahan said: “I’m not sure if it’s an appropriate phrase. I think I use it all the time: ‘This guy looks like he’s shaken up.’ And that doesn’t mean he’s got a concussion. That’s why they go through these procedures, because they don’t let someone like me make those decisions, which they shouldn’t, because we’re not experts in that area. But the people that are experts, if you think a guy has something wrong with his head, we let the experts look at it.”

Rookie backup quarterback Kirk Cousins, who replaced Griffin in the third quarter of the loss to the Atlanta Falcons, said after the game he’d been told by the team’s trainers that he would have to enter the game and finish it. Under NFL rules, a player with concussion symptoms is prohibited from re-entering a game.

NFL rules require a team to provide timely and accurate injury information during a game. The league is looking into the matter but it did not appear likely that it would be resolved Monday.

A Redskins spokesman defended the team’s in-game announcement Sunday, saying it was made before Griffin was “officially” determined through medical testing to have suffered a concussion.

But Mayer, who said the Redskins followed proper medical procedures in responding to  Griffin’s injury, said the team should not have used the “shaken up terminology” for the public.

“I’m not sure where that came from,” he said. “Obviously people other than the medical staff were involved between when he was examined and when that was said… It goes to the question of whether in the future, are we going to have to be more descriptive, not only with our medical staffs but also with our PR staffs and those who dispense this information to the public?

“I have a rule of 80-80 when it comes to the NFL. Whatever happens, as soon as it happens, it’s in front of 80,000 people in the stadium and 80 million people who are watching on TV or finding out about it later through the news. It is important how this is portrayed, that it’s portrayed accurately. It has to be, because of the enormity of the NFL and the importance of the issue of head injuries, not only in this sport but also in other sports and outside of sports.”

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Robert Griffin III is resting and undergoing tests Monday