NFL teams now face fines, loss of draft picks if they violate concussion protocol

NEW YORK, NY (ESPN) — The NFL and NFL Players Association on Monday jointly announced new guidelines designed to probe and punish teams that violate the league’s game-day concussion protocol.

Under the new policy, when a team’s medical staff or other employee is determined to violate the concussion protocol, the team could be subject to discipline — either fines of anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000 for a first violation, or loss of draft picks.

Fines for violators will ramp up to a minimum of $100,000 for second and each additional violation of the concussion protocol.

There are additional penalties if the violation involves aggravating circumstances, and the commissioner may impose more severe financial penalties and require clubs to forfeit draft picks if it’s determined that a club’s medical team ignored protocol for competitive reasons.

To enforce the new policy, the league and the players union will each designate a representative to monitor teams’ implementation of the protocol and investigate potential violations. The league and union’s joint statement said the investigation will not make medical conclusions, but will only determine whether the protocol was followed. An arbitrator will handle cases where the league and union disagree and report to the commissioner.

Commissioner Roger Goodell retains sole discretion in determining penalties for violations of the game-day concussion protocol.

The league and union’s new rules are geared toward refining the existing ability to enforce whether teams are abiding by the concussion protocol, making it easier for the league to evaluate how teams handle concussions and determine if a violation occurred, the league and NFLPA said.

Diagnosed concussions rose by nearly 32 percent in the NFL during the 2015 season, according to data released in January by the league.

The 2015 total was 271, a figure that includes all preseason and regular-season games as well as all practices since the start of training camp. The league had previously boasted of a decrease in reported concussions in both 2014 (206) and 2013 (229), a drop the league attributed to an enhanced concussion protocol it implemented after the 2012 season. There had been 261 reported concussions in 2012.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.