Will Patrick Mahomes Play Sunday in Chiefs-Bills? Doctors Explain Concussion Clearance Process
Harry How/Getty Images. Pictured: Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes.
A lot of it is based on the conjecture of whether Patrick Mahomes, who suffered a concussion in the third quarter of Sunday’s game, can play against Buffalo next week. Sean Koerner, our director of predictive analytics, makes the Chiefs -2.5 with Mahomes and +3.5 without him.
The Action Network talked to two physicians who deal with concussions frequently and both said the timetable to get Mahomes back is challenging.
“Everything would have to go perfectly for Mahomes to be on the field on Sunday,” said Dr. Sam Dona, a sports medicine physician in New Jersey who has dealt with athletes and concussions in a variety of sports.
In order to play on Sunday, Mahomes would have to get through the NFL Concussion Protocol.
There are five steps:
- Rest to return to baseline status of his neurological function tested when he was asymptomatic.
- Light exercise.
- More involved exercise.
- Football specific activities, like a non-contact practice walkthrough.
- A full practice that simulates game contact.
“When we see what happened, we see that Mahomes is visually confused, has significant balance issues and is acutely fatigued,” said Dr. Jason Krystofiak, who is the medical director for The Matthew J. Morahan III Health Assessment Center for Athletes in New Jersey.
“It certainly appears like he would need some time to recover. But I’ve seen elite athletes who go off the field like he did today and they’re back the next week and I’ve seen guys who look like they could go in the next play and they don’t recover for three weeks.”
Krystofiak said it’s important that Mahomes is at home and can start the resting process immediately. Both doctors said Mahomes has to start the NFL Concussion Protocol by Tuesday at the latest. In order to do that, Mahomes has to be able to exhibit that he can track objects with his eyes and hold his balance effortlessly.
Each stage of the Protocol typically takes one day, though steps can be combined if necessary.
“He has to be at least sitting in team meetings Tuesday and understanding the game plans,” Krystofiak said.
Passing each level is relatively subjective, but there will be a lot of eyeballs on the process — especially on the grand stage to which Mahomes hopes to return.
In the most comprehensive study to date of concussions sustained by NFL players, sports medicine researchers at the Henry Ford Clinic looked at data from 2012-2015 and players who had sustained a concussion returned to play, on average, 19 days later.
“There are no medicines for this to make things go faster,” Dona said. “And there’s no test that can definitively tell you that your brain has recovered.”