NFL says concussion protocol was followed after Cam Newton hit in playoffs

Shutdown Corner

Despite the protests from amateur doctors watching their televisions and diagnosing Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers quarterback didn’t suffer a concussion against the New Orleans Saints.

Newton’s reaction to a hit drew a lot of attention on wild-card weekend. Newton was hit hard, stayed down for a moment and then went to a knee as he tried to get to the sideline, but was quickly cleared and put back in the game. He pointed at his eye as it was happening, and the NFL concluded that he did suffer an eye injury and not a concussion.

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The NFL announced Wednesday its review showed “that there was no protocol violation. Mr. Newton was properly evaluated for a concussion in the sideline medical tent and did not sustain a concussion.” The NFL said Newton sustained an abrasion over his right eye and had a foreign matter in his eye after the tackle.

A lot of this should have been clear even from television. People pointed to Newton going to a knee as proof that he needed to be taken out of the game, but that happens a lot. Coaches want injured players taking a knee instead of hurrying off the field. When Newton went down it caused officials to call a timeout, and backup Derek Anderson then had time to warm up.

“Coach [Ron] Rivera told the parties conducting this review that he instructed the quarterback coach to tell Mr. Newton to take a knee if he required medical treatment,” the NFL’s statement said. “That instruction was relayed by the coach to Mr. Newton via coach-to-quarterback radio transmittal.”

An athletic trainer who met Newton on the field also told him to take a knee. It looked a little awkward because Newton had suffered a right knee injury earlier in the game and it was hard for him to get down on a knee, the NFL said. But it did not meet the “gross motor instability” measure the NFL put into its protocol near the end of the season in order to make the concussion examination stricter.

The NFL also noted the many, many instant amateur diagnoses that happened after the play. While the NFL has made mistakes in acknowledging concussions and then in enforcing the protocol, it doesn’t help when non-medical professionals believe they can definitively diagnose concussions from their couch.

“We urge restraint among those who attempt to make medical diagnoses based upon the broadcast video alone,” the NFL said. “Evaluation for a concussion requires not only an analysis of the broadcast video but an examination performed by a medical team familiar with the player and the relevant medical history.”

The NFL said Cam Newton did not suffer a concussion in a playoff game against the Saints. (AP)
The NFL said Cam Newton did not suffer a concussion in a playoff game against the Saints. (AP)

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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