KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs Kingdom and much of the NFL world watched in shock as quarterback Patrick Mahomes struggled to get up mid-way through the playoff game against the Browns. He was taken off the field and soon reported with a concussion.
Replays show Mahomes falling to the ground at the end of an option run. His head suddenly accelerated toward the ground, striking the turf.
“It almost looks like it was an acceleration, deceleration injury,” Dr. Darrin D’Agostino, executive dean of Kansas City University, said. “In other words, he was falling, he was coming down with someone on top of him, his head was stopped immediately, and then he was twisted.”
D’Agostino said that this kind of motion can cause a whiplash injury, which can cause a concussion.
“The brain is kind of floating. It’s tethered to the tissue within the skull, and it’s floating, and so what happens is we can move physically in a car accident or a boxer’s punch or coming down on your head with somebody else pushing you, and the brain doesn’t move as fast, and so you shear. There are shearing forces within the skull that actually cause these injuries,” the doctor said.
The NFL has a five-step process Mahomes must pass before he is eligible to play again:
- Rest and Recovery — The player is prescribed rest, until his signs and symptoms and neurological examination, including cognitive and balance tests, return to baseline status.
- Light Aerobic Exercise — Under the direct oversight of the team’s medical staff, the player should begin graduated cardiovascular exercise and may also engage in dynamic stretching and balance training.
- Continued Aerobic Exercise & Strength Training — The player continues with supervised cardiovascular exercises that are increased and may mimic sport specific activities, and supervised strength training is introduced.
- Football Specific Activities — The player-patient may continue cardiovascular conditioning, strength and balance training and participate in non-contact football activities such as throwing, catching, running and other position-specific activities.
- Full Football Activity — Once cleared by the team physician, the player may participate in all aspects of practice.