A concussion and subsequent seizure suffered Oct. 23rd by San Diego Chargers Pro Bowl guard Kris Dielman will be the subject of intensive discussion when the NFL and NFL Players Association's Joint Committee on Player Safety and Welfare meets in New York on Tuesday.
Dielman was injured early in the fourth quarter when he collided with New York Jets linebacker Calvin Pace. Immediately following the play, Dielman wobbled and appeared disoriented but remained in the game.
The nine-year veteran was evaluated for a possible concussion after the game but the team determined him fit enough to get on the team's cross-country flight home to San Diego. However, Dielman suffered a seizure near the end of the flight and was hospitalized.
"(Dielman) had the seizure as soon as the jet's wheels touched down and it's obviously a serious incident that everybody wants to avoid," said Dr. Thomas Mayer, the NFLPA's medical director.
"I've looked at the play at least a hundred times," Mayer continued, "and not only does the broadcast footage provide a clear visual record, you can hear the collision loud and clear on the audio. It really was an unfortunate event, but this is a process and an opportunity to further strengthen our protocol. There are a lot of lessons to be learned here."
Mayer, who is also a member of the union safety committee as mandated by the collective bargaining agreement, outlined some of those lessons, including the education of game officials.
"You can see on the video when Dielman wobbles backwards that the umpire (Tony Michalek) is concerned and the referee (Ron Winter) notices something, too. Dielman waved off the umpire. I know he's one tough dude, but this is what we're trying to avoid. We can educate the officials to treat this like a significant injury, stop time and call for medical attention. When Dielman continued to play in the game, he was subject to further collisions by the nature of the sport and his position."
Mayer said the Chargers' team physicians, Dr. Calvin Wong and Dr. David Chao, were unaware of the concussion when it occurred and were not alerted when Dielman came to the sideline. Wong was attending to another Chargers player and Dr. Chao had a poor sightline and believed Dielman may have simply suffered a turned ankle. Also, Mayer said that Dielman did not complain of a concussion when he returned to the bench area.
The panel, which was scheduled to meet Tuesday before Dielman's injury, will also focus on the team's postgame treatment of the concussion. An unidentified Chargers player alerted the medical staff that he believed Dielman needed to be checked for a concussion. After evaluation, it was determined Dielman was fit enough to travel home with the team.
"Dielman never underwent a CT Scan before he left New York and maybe that would have prevented him from getting on the plane and flying home," said Mayer. "Again, we will have to discuss whether this should be part of the mandatory protocol as we gather information and more opinions during the review."
Also under discussion is whether teams will be required to have an independent neurologist on the sidelines. Presently, each team is assigned an independent neurologist in its home city who is included in the post-concussion evaluation process.
Mayer emphasized an important part of the process was "not to point fingers but to gather information and be transparent as we seek solutions. It's a genuine collaborative process. I know (former NFL concussion expert) Dr. (Elliot) Pellman has been thorough on the NFL side and (the union) has been just as thorough. (NFLPA executive director) DeMaurice Smith has been informed and remains very much part of the process."
Chris Mortensen is ESPN's senior NFL analyst.