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The NFL’s Concussion Protocol Is Under Fire in Week 10

Just three days after the Seahawks reportedly violated concussion protocol with Russell Wilson, the Colts rushed Jacoby Brissett back to the field after a helmet-to-helmet hit

Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit late in the third quarter of the Colts’ loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. The Colts punted on the next play, and Brissett returned on the next series. He was placed in concussion protocol after the game.

The team said Brissett was evaluated during the game for a concussion, passed, and was cleared to return. He began showing concussion-like symptoms after the game had ended, according to a graphic released by the Colts on Twitter.

Chris Nowinski, CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation and one of the key figures in linking football to long-term brain damage, harshly criticized Indianapolis’s decision to allow Brissett to return to the game.

This was the second time in Week 10 that a quarterback returned to a game after possibly suffering a concussion. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson took a shot to the chin from Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby on Thursday night and was sent off the field by referee Walt Anderson. But Wilson went to the sideline tent only momentarily and returned to the field after missing the minimum one play. He was under center for two more plays before the drive ended. He then re-entered the medical tent for a longer period of time before returning at the start of Seattle’s next possession.

League policy requires that a player suspected of suffering a concussion must be cleared by a team doctor and an independent neurologist before returning.

The NFL ruled the Thursday sequence was a violation of concussion protocol because Wilson was not cleared before returning to the game, according to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Seahawks could face a fine as large as $150,000 for the violation.

The league has adopted strict concussion protocols on game day aimed at avoiding serious brain injuries. Players who return to the field immediately after suffering a concussion are at risk for second-impact syndrome if they incur another hit to the head, which can lead to potentially fatal brain swelling.