Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage took a vicious hit during a 16-26 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, then appeared to freeze in position on the ground as his arms and hands shook. Yet within minutes, he returned to play.
The troubling scene was captured on camera (see above).
After the hit, Savage rested on the ground with his eyes closed and his bent arms twitching in what appeared to be a seizure. When team managers decided he had suffered a concussion, Savage was yanked from the game.
Players are supposed to go through a protocol after serious tackles to determine if they have suffered a concussion. Players with the condition are immediately removed from play because a second hit could trigger an even more devastating brain injury.
ESPN reported that a “neurotrauma consultant” evaluated Savage in a medical tent following the hard tackle by 49ers defensive end Elvis Dumervil. But Savage returned to the field just three minutes later.
After throwing two incomplete passes, T.J. Yates replaced Savage. At that point, Savage was re-evaluated and not allowed to return to play.
When Savage tried to return to the field, he was restrained by a team official. The team later tweeted that Savage was officially staying out with a concussion.
Head coach Bill O’Brien said that medical evaluators “made the determination to put him back in the game. He went back in the game and came out and they evaluated him a little bit more just because of what they saw.”
ESPN later reported that the NFL’s concussion protocol obviously had “major issues.” The protocol “cannot possibly be considered adequate if it allowed” Savage back into the game, reporter Kevin Seifert wrote.
The troubling scene occurred amid mounting evidence of devastating brain damage from tackles in NFL games. MRIs have shown that football players suffering chronic traumatic encephalopathy from repeated concussions and other batterings can face the same kind of brain deterioration that boxers experience. Such brain damage significantly impacts intelligence and behavior and has been linked to depression, memory loss, dementia, suicide and other early death.
Fans were furious that the team and referee on the scene allowed Savage back into the game after the hit:
Five Houston players have been pulled from games in the past two weeks due to concussions.