Concussions and the NFL Football Player


A concussion is a brain injury in which the brain is “concussed” inside of the skull from either a direct impact to the head (contact with another player or ground), or a whiplash-type motion in which the brain is concussed through the accelerated motion of the head when the head is snapped forwards and/or backwards. Most concussions occur without being knocked unconscious and the severity of injury depends on many factors. All concussions are not created equally. Each player is different, each injury is different, and all injuries should be evaluated by the team medical staff.


The key to classifying concussions is to note the number of symptoms that an athlete experiences along with the length of time that the athlete experiences the symptoms on a concussion symptom checklist.



Because concussions may affect each athlete differently, sports medicine professionals need to treat each athlete uniquely and not automatically follow a set protocol.  Compounding the challenge of diagnosing and treating concussion is each athlete has a different “set point” for concussion. Some athletes can receive multiple blows to the head and feel little effects while others are more sensitive to concussive injuries and may feel significant symptoms with fewer concussive injuries or with less intensity of hits.


NFL Concussion Recovery Time

“The system is working,” Richard Ellenbogen, co-chairman of the league’s head, neck and spine committee, told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. “Everybody affiliated with it has become more conservative.”

Richard Ellenbogen,co-chairman of the NFL league’s head, neck and spine committee, said more than half the players who have suffered concussions this 2015 season have not been cleared to return by the following week, and he estimated the 

typical time for a NFL football player to return to playable condition is nine to 10 days.
 When reported concussions in the NFL dropped 36% last season, the average time to return was eight days, according to the league’s figures. In 2012 and 2013, the average return was six days.


Each player and each concussion is unique,” the NFL protocol states. “Therefore, there is no set time-frame for return to participation or for the progression through the steps of the graduated exercise program set forth below. Recovery time will vary from player to player.



  1. Rest and recovery. Players may stretch and work on their balance, but they don’t work out beyond that. In addition, they’re advised against spending time on computers, any electronic device and social media. They don’t take part in team meetings.
  2. Light aerobic exercise. Under supervision of the team’s medical staff, the player can start cardiovascular exercise, such as riding a stationary bike and using a treadmill, and work on more dynamic stretching and balancing. The workload is increased gradually and halted entirely if concussion-related symptoms recur. Players can attend team meetings and study film.
  3. Continued aerobic exercise, introduction of strength training. Building gradually on the work of step 2, the player can start weight training.
  4. Football-specific work. The player adds non-contact football drills, such as throwing, catching and running to his repertoire of exercise. No contact allowed with other players, tackling dummies or sleds.
  5. Full football activity, full clearance. The player resumes practicing with the team, with no limitations. Once the team physician clears him to complete, the player is examined by the independent neurological consultant, who also reviews any relevant neurological tests.


Concussions By Player Position





NFL Related Concussion Tweets



For more detailed information on concussions, please visit Concussion in Sports.



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  • Covassin, T., Elbin III, R., Stiller-Ostrowski, J., Kontos, A. (2009). Immediate post-concussion assessment and cognitive testing (ImPACT) practices of sports medicine professionals. Journal of Athletic Training, 44(6), 639-644.
  • Guskiewica, K., Bruce, S., Cantu, R., Ferrara, M., Kelly, J., McCrea, M., et al. (2004). National athletic trainers’ association position statement: management of sport-related concussion. Journal of Athletic Training, 39(3), 280-297.
  • Salis, R., (2009). A team physician’s approach to concussion management. Presented at Annual National Summit on Concussion and Other Sports Medicine Injuries, Los Angeles, California, May 15.
  • Siobounov, S., Siobounov, E., Sebastianelli, W., Cao, C., & Newell, K. (2007). Differential rate of recovery in athletes after first and second concussion episodes. Neurosurgery, 61(2), 338-344.
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