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Optimum Performance: Concussions down but not out in NFL

New Orleans Saints tackle Terron Armstead (72) was one of three Saints players to miss time in the 2014 season due to a concussion, according to a PBS report. (Michael DeMocker, / The Times-Picayune) (Michael DeMocker)

“Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown (head) and Jill came tumbling after,” which sounds like the aftermath of the head trauma that can occur on any given play in the NFL.

That’s not to say that the NFL has not woken up from its own case of amnesia after a $726 million settlement with former players, who sustained concussions with what appeared to be inadequate protocols in place in past years. Now there is a cast of medical personnel on the sidelines, in the locker rooms, and even spotters in the press box to not only detect head trauma, but also render immediate care and follow up.

A Dec. 5 story by Robert Collins said through the first 13 weeks of the season, “a total of 96 (52 on defense and 44 on offense) concussions have been disclosed on (weekly) team injury reports, down from 115 at the same point last season, and 128 in 2012.”

Beginning with the 2012-2013 NFL season, Frontline — the American public television flagship public affairs show which airs on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) — established Concussion Watch, which tracks NFL players, who have been listed on the weekly NFL injury reports with either a concussion or head trauma.

The tracking looks at players who have been removed from games, “After a hit to the head — which players are not — and keeps score of how long they are kept from the field following a concussion.”

In 2012-2013, Concussion Watch, “Found that players who suffered concussions returned to the field without missing a game 50 percent of the time, even though the guidelines written by the American Academy of Neurology and endorsed by the player’s association (NFLPA) say that a player is at greater risk for further injury within ten days after the initial injury (secondary concussion).” For this season, “Less than 40 percent of injured players have left the concussion protocol and returned to play without missing a game,” Concussion Watch noted.

As of last week, 109 concussions have been reported. On offense, the highest number goes to wide receivers (13), followed by both offensive tackles and running backs (10), tight ends (9), guards (5), centers (2), and quarterbacks (1).

On defense cornerbacks are leading the pack (21), followed by safeties (16), linebackers (15), and both defensive tackles and ends (3).

It appears that players still attempt to hide their concussion symptoms despite the Certified Athletic Trainer tasked in each NFL press box to spot a dazed player who might have been missed by the medical staff on each sideline. One such case may have occurred in week eight in the game between the Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers.

Charger safety Jahleel Addae was seen on follow-up video review to have made helmet-to-helmet contact with Bronco receiver Emmanuel Sanders and was “visibly shaken.” Addae was allowed to finish the game. It was later concluded by the NFL and the NFLPA that a spotter in the press box may have missed what turned out to be a concussion.

The Cincinnati Bengals lead the NFL with the highest number of head injuries (7), since the preseason, while the Dolphins so far have reported none. The Saints have reported three players with concussions – tackle Terron Armstead, defensive tackle Broderick Bunkley, and running back Edwin Baker.

Mackie Shilstone, a regular contributor to | The Times-Picayune, has been involved in the wellness sports performance industry for nearly 40 years. He is currently the fitness coach for Serena Williams, has trained numerous other professional athletes and consulted a litany of professional sports franchises. He is St. Charles Parish Hospital’s Fitness and Wellness expert. Contact him at