(Reuters) - The National Football League said on Monday that teams could be fined heavily and forfeit future draft picks if they violate the concussion protocol.
According to the joint agreement of the NFL and NFL Players Association, each side will designate someone to monitor the implementation of the protocol and investigate any potential violations.
The investigation will not reach medical conclusions; it will only determine whether the protocol was followed, the two sides said in a joint statement.
If the parties are unable to agree, the matter will be brought to a third party arbitrator that would conduct a review and issue a report to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and the involved parties.
As jointly agreed to by the NFL and NFLPA, Goodell retains absolute discretion in determining penalties for violations of the concussion protocol.
A first violation will require the club's employees or medical team members involved to attend remedial education along with a possible maximum fine of $150,000 against the club.
Subsequent violations will result in a minimum $100,000 fine.
If the parties agree that a violation involved aggravating circumstances, the club shall be subject, in the first instance, to a fine no less than $50,000. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine discipline for subsequent violations involving aggravating circumstances.
And if Goodell determines that the club's medical team failed to follow the protocol due to competitive considerations, he may require the club to forfeit draft picks and impose additional fines.
The NFL has been facing criticism over player safety and the link between football and concussions. Its concussion protocol came under renewed scrutiny last season when Rams quarterback Case Keenum was allowed to continue playing after suffering a concussion in a game.
Last November, Keenum sustained a head injury on the field and struggled to get up off the turf after his head hit the ground but he remained in the game and later gave up a fumble that cost his team that game.
The NFL said at the time it would review why Keenum was not taken off the field for evaluation by a team doctor or an independent neuro-trauma physician as required by its concussion protocols.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Larry Fine)