N.F.L. Changes Concussion Protocol

Several changes to the N.F.L.’s concussion safety protocol, including requiring the presence of an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant at the league command center for all games, were revealed by league officials on Sunday.

The changes, backed by the N.F.L. and its players union, were agreed upon Dec. 11 by the league’s head, neck and spine committee. They went into effect the following weekend.

“We are constantly looking at the protocol and how it’s applied and trying to get better. The process happens throughout the season,” said Allen Sills, the N.F.L.’s chief medical officer.

A controversial Dec. 10 injury involving Houston quarterback Tom Savage and a misstep in the concussion protocol for Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in Week 10 — which resulted in a $100,000 fine for the franchise — were among the controversies that motivated the late-season changes.

The consultant at the command center will monitor games by broadcast coverage and assist in implementing protocol, including contacting team medical staffs on the sidelines to ensure they are aware of situations as they develop.

An extra neurotrauma consultant will be at all NFL playoff games and February’s Super Bowl in Minnesota so that one will be available even if another is occupied with a previously injured player.

Among other changes, an impact seizure will be treated as a loss of consciousness and force removal of a player from a game.

A player who stumbles or falls to the ground trying to stand, unrelated to an orthopedic injury, will be sent directly to the locker room for examination. If a player passes the exam, he could be allowed to return to the game.

Injured players are to be taken directly to a medical team member for a concussion assessment.

All players who undergo any concussion evaluation in games will have a follow-up evaluation conducted the next day by a member of the medical staff.

Entering Sunday, there had been 540 game day concussion evaluations conducted this season with two reviews.

NFL ratings have never taken a hit like this before

NFL ratings have never taken a hit like this beforeNFL ratings have never taken a hit like this beforeNFL ratings have never taken a hit like this before

The NFL playoffs can’t come quickly enough for Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The NFL’s regular season ended last weekend with its worst full-season viewership decline ever.

The number of TV viewers tuning into the league’s 108 national telecasts fell 9.7 percent from the previous season.

The decline brought the average TV audience per game to 14.9 million — down from 16.5 million the previous season, according to Nielsen.

That’s the lowest number of viewers per game in nine years — since an average 14.6 million fans tuned in during the 2008 season.

TV viewership of the once-seemingly invincible league is down nearly 17 percent in two years. During the 2015 season, an average of 17.9 million viewers tuned in.

That means Goodell’s NFL, which can still boast the most popular sport in the US, nonetheless lost an average 1.6 million fans per game last season — like having 21 games played in an empty stadium.

The decline has been a topic of national discussion since Week 1 — with kneeling-player protests during the national anthem, poor play, concussion controversies and oversaturation of TV games among the most-cited causes for the fan revolt.

The 9.7 percent decline in TV viewership last season is greater than the 7.8 percent decline in 2016 from the previous season, statistics show.

In 2012, viewership was off 5.1 percent from 2011.

The viewership decline last season likely means that the NFL’s media partners — ESPN, Fox, NBC and CBS — had to make good on commercials to advertisers.

It also meant they all made a lot less money on NFL deals. Each network pays more than $1 billion a year to air NFL games.

As for the playoffs, starting this weekend, they were among the NFL’s most-watched programs in 2017.