Reporting Concussions: Are They Trying to Blame the Victim for the Injury?

Reporting Concussions: Are They Trying to Blame the Victim for the Injury?

According to his wife, Gisele Bundchen, pro NFL quarterback Tom Brady suffered a concussion last year.  In fact, she states her husband “…does have concussions.”  That’s plural.

For details, check out her interview with Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning on YouTube.  Listen for yourself.

Now, for the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots Quarterback to have suffered a head injury is big news.  Multiple concussions: even bigger news.

But the greater issue here is there is no team reference to any concussion injury for Tom Brady last year, for the entire 2016 season. 

NFL Concussion Protocol

As Sports Illustrated explains, if any player on a National Football League team is demonstrating any signs of head injury or concussion, then NFL concussion protocol is to remove that player from play.

Read the NFL Head, Neck, and Spine Committee’s Protocols Regarding Diagnosis and Management of Concussion here (or download the pdf).

What is the NFL Concussion Protocol?  These are the league’s guidelines to all its football teams on protecting players from serious injury due to concussions, traumatic brain injuries, or other head and neck (spine) trauma.  The idea is that coaches, trainers, and others on the sidelines should be watching and monitoring the athletes for possible concussion injuries.  The protocol includes a list of symptoms as well as how to evaluate on the sidelines and more.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?  Problem is: it’s not working.

And from the media coverage after the Gisele Bundchen interview, the question now seems to be whether or not players are announcing that they’ve been hurt.  Because the company line regarding Tom Brady is that no one saw anything wrong and Brady never complained.

Read the NFL statement here: “NFL: No records indicate Tom Brady had concussion.”

So, somehow the focus is turning from those responsible for monitoring and taking care of these players to the injury victim himself.  There’s talk of “self-reporting concussionsnow.

Self-Reporting Concussions

ESPN interviewed NFL pro quarterback Drew Brees about the Tom Brady Concussion Controversy.  One question in the interview:  the duty of the injury victim to take himself out of the game due to injury.

Brees is reported as “agreeing” that self-reporting concussions is a “gray area” and admitted to suffering a concussion during a 2004 game when he played for the San Diego Chargers.

NBC Sports interviewed Calvin Johnson, a retired NFL pro receiver, about suffering concussions during his career.  According to Johnson, he suffered concussions and he hid them from the team doctors.  His explanation: he had a job to do, and he is not the only player that does not admit to head injuries on the field of play.

His experience is that this is a common practice among the players: to ignore the concussion head injury;  it’s just a part of playing football. 

Research into Self-Reporting of Concussions: Not Reliable

Researchers have studied self-reporting concussions and the need for the injury victim to reveal the extent of his head trauma symptoms as soon as possible for proper treatment.  Things like blurred vision, nausea, ringing in the ears, dizziness, etc. are much harder to observe by a third party than other symptoms (lack of balance, unconsciousness, slurred speech, etc.).

And it’s understood that reliance upon self-reporting by the concussion victim is “unreliable” at best.  For one thing, the person has just suffered an injury to the head.  His thinking and decision-making skills may not be operating properly.  That’s a given.

Added to that is the pressure for the team athlete to keep playing.  The team is depending upon him, if he is playing school sports.

If he’s on an NFL Pro Team, a lot of money and lots of people are depending upon him to keep playing.  Imagine the pressure on Tom Brady or Drew Brees from a profit-making standpoint.

For details here, read the following article published on the National Institute of Health website as published in the Journal of Athletic Training: Alla S, Sullivan SJ, Hale L, McCrory P. Self-report scales/checklists for the measurement of concussion symptoms: a systematic review. Br J Sports Med. 2009;43 (suppl 1):i3–i12.

Duty of Care and Fault in an Injury Claim

We’ve monitored the discovery of permanent harm and even fatal injuries suffered by professional football players in this country, from the initial injury claims and tragedies to the filing of injury lawsuits and the settlements entered into by the National Football League.

For more details, read:


The reality, as we continue to warn, is that playing football at any level is dangerous.  There will be head injuries and helmets are not sufficient to protect the player from harm.

This is true for professional football players as well as college athletes and your child or teenager playing on his local school football team.  The danger of permanent harm and a life-altering head injury is real.  And the likelihood of suffering a concussion while playing football at any level is shockingly high.

Blame the Victim to Avoid Financial Responsibility?

In any personal injury or wrongful death claim, whether filed in Indiana or Illinois or elsewhere, the injured victim has to provide evidence that the defendant had a duty of care that was breached and caused him harm.

If the defendant can twist things to point the finger at the victim, then the defendant may lessen his liability and in some negligence cases may even have a defense that bars having to pay for the resulting medical expenses, long-term care, lost earning capacity, lost enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, and more.

This is especially concerning for children and teen athletes on the field of play.  Young players are known to avoid admission of feeling bad or suffering injury and the idea of “self-reporting” as a duty placed upon them is worrisome.

In our next post, we’ll discuss more about protecting kids and teens from concussions on the field.  Let’s be careful out there!

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