The Pro Football Concussion Report

A Fan's Look at Head Injuries and the Concussion Crisis in Football

Introducing the Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant

Dr. Teena Shetty, NY Giants Unafilliated Neurological Consultant (Crains New York)


One of the improvements the NFL rolled out for the 2013-14 season was adding a neurological consultant to each sideline during games. Although there has been little information throughout the brief season about how the consultants are improving the diagnosis and care of head injuries, some details are making their way out. The NFL is referring to these consultants as Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultants, or UNTCs.

The NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee released a 6 page paper regarding the “Diagnosis and Management of Concussion” for the 2013-14 season. In the paper, the committee states:


“The responsibility for the diagnosis of concussion and the decision to return a player to a game remains exclusively within the professional judgement of the Head Team Physician or the Team physician assigned to managing TBI.”


Important to note though is that once a player has been diagnosed with a concussion, the UNTC must examine and clear the player before a return to practice and play can be authorized.

In a press release, the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona describes their UNTC duties as the NFL’s selection of them to assist the Arizona Cardinals:


“The brain injury experts from Barrow will examine players immediately after they return to the sidelines if they show concussion symptoms. If it’s determined a player has suffered a concussion, the Barrow physicians will discuss appropriate treatment.”


In an article titled, Concussion Management in the NFL: Gameday Evaluation of Head Injury, Dr. Jene Bramel, a pediatrician and football blogger reports that UNTCs may only examine a player at the specific request of the team doctor.


“Each team’s UNTC will observe from the 25-yard line — outside the box in which all team personnel must remain — and may approach the team’s bench (or locker room) only when specifically called by the team physician. Though independent observers, they may collaborate, assist or examine players only when asked. The UNTCs are meant to be an independent on-field backup, but technically report to the team physician on game day.” 


For its part, the NFLPA produced a “tip sheet” about concussions. Although it’s a relative softball with big clip art and little new info, it does reiterate that before returning to play after a concussion, the player should be:

“cleared by your team physician AND the team’s independent neurological consultant.”


The new rules regarding tackling seem to be having a positive effect on lessening the impact of helmet hits on the number of injuries sustained during the games. Except for some penalties and a few whining players, these rules may actually do what they were intended to accomplish. And the NFL has hardly become the “flag football” that some cranky fans and ex-NFLers like to mimic. As the season progresses, it’ll be nice to see the positive affect from having the additional physicians on the sidelines and perhaps involved in game day evaluations.

The Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultants include:

Arizona Cardinals: Nuerosurgeon, Dr. Nicolas Theodore

New York Giants: Neurologist, Dr. Teena Shetty

Cleveland Browns: Neurosurgeon, Dr. William Bingaman




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