ACC adds ‘medical observers’ to football games as concussion concerns rise


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – Concussions are in the spotlight now more than ever with new policies and even a movie starring a big Hollywood name.

Will Smith will play Dr. Bennet Omalu in the film “Concussion” coming out this December. The movie will depict the story of how CTE, a brain trauma, was brought to the forefront of sports injuries. But before the flick hits the big screens, football season will start with a new rule in ACC territory.

The conference will be placing medical spotters in the press box to monitor players for any kind of signs of brain trauma.

One UNC researcher has played a major part in the push for football teams to be more aware of concussions.

“A player who had been concussed, it may not be apparent to the athletic trainer or the team physician on the sideline. And they may be dizzy, stumbling a bit and perhaps not recognizing that and staying in the game. So the whole idea is that maybe a spotter would be able to pick this up and radio down to the sideline,” said Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz, co-director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Each ACC team will have its own spotter in the press box. The NFL and other college conferences have already adopted this policy.

Each observer will occupy a specified location to monitor any visual indicators of potential injury to a player from his or her team.

Medical observers will communicate with their teams’ medical staffs on the sidelines. Upon a medical observer’s notification of a visual indicator of an injury, that sideline personnel will act upon that information in accordance with their institution’s athletics medical plan, the ACC said ina news release.

“Each game that we play, there will be two people in the booth – one from each school – that will have the sole purpose of observing what’s taking place on the field that somebody on the sidelines might not be able to see,” Commissioner John Swofford said in a news release.

The ACC initiative was unanimously approved by the conference’s athletic directors.

Player safety has been a rising concern in the college ranks. In the 2014 season, Michigan coach Brady Hoke kept quarterback Shane Morris in the game despite the fact that Hoke was clearly woozy after taking a hit on the field and had to be aided by a lineman.

Hoke later said he didn’t see that Morris was wobbly.

WNCN reporter Carleigh Griffeth contributed to this report.

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