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Knocked for a loop: Concussion confusion still rules

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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PHILADELPHIA -- This was supposed to be a new era, the era of concussion awareness. Then came what happened here on a fine Sunday afternoon.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb was dragged down from behind by Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews. Kolb's head slammed to the ground. From the press box, it was clear that something was wrong with Kolb as he walked off the field. The Eagles initially announced Kolb had a jaw injury. He returned to the game.

Kevin Kolb is hammered by Clay Matthews and winds up with a concussion. (AP)  
Kevin Kolb is hammered by Clay Matthews and winds up with a concussion. (AP)  
So, too, did Stewart Bradley. His concussion was even more frightening. Bradley smashed his head on the knee of fellow Eagles linebacker Ernie Sims. When Bradley rose to his feet, he stumbled sideways and fell back to the ground. He resembled a fighter whose head was destroyed by a right hook.

There was an audible gasp from some in the crowd after watching Bradley stumble. Bradley, like Kolb, was examined briefly by the medical staff. Bradley, like Kolb, returned to the game.

Coach Andy Reid said both Kolb and Bradley were initially cleared by the medical staff on the sideline. It was decided at halftime to sit them.

"They were fine," Reid said. "All of the questions they answered with the doctors registered well, but as it went on, they weren't feeling well. So we took them out."

But they weren't fine. Particularly in the case of Bradley, who was obviously concussed. You could see he was punch drunk. So why was he returned?

The two hits -- and how the Eagles dealt with them -- demonstrated that teams and players still either don't know how to handle their concussed players, or they do and are still ignoring how serious concussions are to the body.

The Eagles are a good organization filled with good people. I know many of them. I refuse to believe they don't care about their players but there went Kolb and Bradley back into the game after they were clearly woozy.

The Eagles know all about concussions. They jettisoned Brian Westbrook because he suffered so many. In other words, they should know better.

My belief has long been that the NFL can create as many safeguards as it wants, but the league also has to change the mentality of teams and players. That is a process that will take many years. You still hear in locker rooms the language used to describe concussions that I heard when I first started covering the NFL over 20 years ago. The language of "dings" and "bell rung" and "shook up."

"That's happened to all of us before," Eagles safety Quintin Mikell told the Philadelphia Inquirer, speaking of the concussions to his two teammates. "That happened to me last year when we played the Raiders. Sometimes you just get your bell rung, and you want to go back out there. And if the training staff says you're OK, like in the case of what happened to me last year, then you go back out there."

See what I mean? He said, "Bell rung."

There also remains the immensely wrong thought process by players that if they sit out from a concussion they're viewed as weak.

Due to the extreme danger of second-impact syndrome -- multiple concussions in a short time span -- the NFL recently decided players who suffer a concussion in a game or practice cannot return to action that day. The player must also be cleared by an independent neurologist.

No one in the Philadelphia organization was answering questions about why the players were cleared one minute and then benched later. Kolb and Bradley were made off limits to the media. The medical staff wasn't made available.

Across college and the NFL it was a weekend of concussions. New York Giants tight end Kevin Boss suffered a concussion. So did Carolina wide receiver Charly Martin. In college, Houston quarterback Case Keenum took a shot to the head.

Then again, during the season, it's always a weekend of head injuries.

What's different now is that there remain as many questions as there are concussions.

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