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Seattle Seahawks fined $100,000 for violating NFL concussion protocol with Russell Wilson

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, shown during a game this month, was instructed to take a medical exam during a Nov. 9 game against Arizona but never received an evaluation.

The Seattle Seahawks were fined $100,000 for violating the NFL’s concussion protocols in a case involving quarterback Russell Wilson, the league and the NFL Players Association announced Thursday.

The Seahawks are the first NFL team to be fined for violating the sport’s procedures for identifying and evaluating possible concussions suffered by players, under a review process announced last year via an agreement between the league and NFLPA.

The NFL and the union jointly investigate possible violations of the protocols. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is in charge of determining any penalties for violations, under that agreement.

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Goodell made the decision regarding the Seahawks’ fine in consultation with the NLFPA, according to Joe Lockhart, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications and public affairs.

“The player was cleared to return to the game without going through the protocol, and that’s a clear violation,” Lockhart said in a conference call with reporters.

The Seahawks said in a written statement that they “accept the findings,” and added: “We did not knowingly disregard the Concussion Protocol. Any misstep was unintentional and the result of confusion on the sideline.” The Seahawks’ coaching and medical staffs also will be required to attend remedial training regarding the concussion protocols, according to a joint written statement by the league and the NFLPA.

The violation occurred during a Nov. 9 game against the Arizona Cardinals. Wilson left the game after being sent to the sideline by referee Walt Anderson for evaluation. Wilson sat in the area of the medical tent on the sideline. But he got up, apparently before the medical staff had an opportunity to examine him, and returned to the game after missing only one play. He returned to the sideline and was went into the medical tent following that Seahawks’ possession, then returned to the game and finished it.

Under league rules, a player with concussion-related symptoms must be examined and cleared by a doctor or independent neurological consultant before returning to a game or practice.

“The results of the joint review determined that the protocol was triggered when Mr. Wilson was directed to the sideline for an evaluation after the referee, Walt Anderson, concluded that a medical examination was warranted,” the league and union said in their statement. “Nonetheless, the required evaluation was not conducted and Mr. Wilson was permitted to return to the game without an evaluation.

“Once it is determined that a medical examination is warranted, a player may only be cleared to return by the medical staff; Mr. Wilson’s return to the field without a sideline concussion evaluation was therefore in violation of the Concussion Protocol. Subsequently the team medical staff did examine the player and clear him per the protocol.”

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Lockhart said there was a “communications breakdown” that allowed Wilson to return to the game before being properly evaluated and cleared. Anderson acted properly to send Wilson to the sideline for an evaluation, Lockhart said, but added: “The player has to be received by medical personnel. It can’t be a coach or non-medical personnel.”

That issue will produce an immediate change to the concussion-related procedures, the NFL and NFLPA said.

“As determined by the NFL and NFLPA, an immediate update will be made to the protocol instructing officials, teammates, and coaching staff to take players directly to a member of the medical team for a concussion assessment,” they said in their statement. “The NFL and the NFLPA will continue to look at potential modifications to the protocols in an effort to keep players safe.”

There have been two official reviews by the league and union this season of incidents related to the concussion protocols. The other involves a concussion suffered by Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage and is ongoing.

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