The safety of Chicago Bears rookie Jaquan Brisker is on NFL concussion protocol after Sunday’s loss in Atlanta.
Brisker missed Wednesday’s practice and his status for Sunday’s game against the New York Jets remains in question as he undergoes further evaluation.
Brisker played 53 of his 55 defensive snaps against the Falcons, but was taken off the field twice for head injury evaluation.
The first incident occurred in the Falcons series opener after the rookie faced point guard Marcus Mariota in a scuffle. Brisker’s head hit the back of MyCole Pruitt at the back of the Falcons, and the defensive back slowly got to his feet.
He was pulled out of the game to look at it, but only missed one snap before returning.
In the third quarter, Brisker was shaken up again after helping to beat Cordarrelle Patterson at short range. It seemed like a routine game, but Brisker grabbed his head and appeared to be in discomfort after hitting the turf. He was then taken off the pitch before the next game to be inspected again. Despite this, he returned for the next series and finished the game.
He was officially diagnosed with a concussion on Monday.
Two other Bears players – defenseman Kyler Gordon and defenseman Sterling Weatherford – also landed on the post-game concussion protocol. Gordon was helped off the pitch after Mariota scored with a 10-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. Gordon collided with Mariota on the goal line and stayed down. However, unlike Brisker, he did not return to play in the fourth quarter.
NFL concussion procedures were under scrutiny this season after Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagavailoa was able to return to the field after a hard hit during a Week 3 win over the Buffalo Bills. Tagavailoa shook his head, stumbled and was visibly wobbly after taking the blow. But after Dolphins medical staff and a non-affiliated neurotrauma consultant assessed him, the team eventually decided it was a problem of the past. Tagavailoa finished that game and was cleared to start against the Cincinnati Bengals four nights later.
In this game, Tagavailoa was thrown onto the pitch by a Bengali defender, hit his head and went into the fencing reaction that occurs when the brain absorbs significant force.
The NFL launched an investigation and subsequently changed its concussion policy, barring any player from returning during a game who exhibits ataxia – abnormal balance or stability, motor coordination or speech dysfunction due to a neurological problem.
“If a guy is clearly handicapped, you have to protect him,” Bears defenseman Nicholas Morrow told the Tribune last month. “Responsibility lies at both ends. (As) gamers, we need to be careful about how we approach protocols, but it also needs to be done with top efficiency.
Still, even with heightened caution, a player’s desire to return to the field can sometimes complicate matters.
The NFL’s chief medical officer, Allen Sills, acknowledged last month that despite increased precautions and procedures, there is a possibility for players to return to the field after concussions.
“We want to always err on the side of attracting players and evaluating them and holding them back if they might be injured,” Sills told the Tribune. “Diagnosing concussion remains difficult. Even today in 2022, with all our technology and all the understanding we have, we still have to rely heavily on patient-reported symptoms.
“I have been a neurosurgeon for over 30 years and let me tell you that there are cases where the diagnosis is very easy and simple, but there are others where it is very difficult to make a diagnosis and we still have a lot to learn about these difficult cases and what is and is not a concussion.
The statuses of Brisker, Gordon and Weatherford in Sunday’s match at MetLife Stadium will be worth monitoring as the week progresses.
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