NFL Conducts Concussion Probe of the Panthers

There were fears that Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers’ starting quarterback, might have suffered a concussion in the NFL Wild Card Round against the New Orleans Saints after a defensive tackle by Saints’ David Onyemata. While standing up after the tackle, he seemed to stumble, and this caused the NFL and the NFLPA (NFL Players’ Association) to conduct a concussion investigation. The NFL’s enhanced concussion protocol requires that the team doctors take a player that shows vertical instability after a hit to the head to be taken to the locker room for evaluation.  

In the week following Panther’s loss to the Saints 31-26, union officials and the NFL started a probe citing that the Panthers had violated the concussion protocol. The team doctors checked for signs of a concussion in the medical tent behind the Panthers’ bench area, and he was cleared to return to play. As he was leaving the field, he took a knee to give backup quarterback Derek Anderson time to warm up.  

Eye and Knee Injury 

According to reports from the Panthers’ interim general manager, Marty Hurney, Newton sustained an eye injury in the tackle. They concluded that there were no indications that Newton could have suffered a concussion and allowed him to return. He missed one play after which he returned to the game until stoppage time. Hurney also said that Newton had been dealing with a knee injury that prompted him to stumble to the turf. Trainers checked Newton’s knee during the game, and this was crucial evidence in the investigations. 

Both the NFL and the NFLPA after investigations noted that Newton did not suffer a concussion and so the Panthers’ were exonerated. Should the investigations have concluded that indeed he had a concussion, the Panthers could have been fine a maximum of $150,000. This is the second time that Panthers have been under scrutiny for concussion protocol violation, after Newton received a hard tackle from Denver Broncos defensive back in a Week 1 rematch of their Super Bowl 50 game, however, it was concluded that they followed protocol. Back in November, the Seattle Seahawks were fined $100,000 for the improper implementation of the concussion protocol. 

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