When NFL players take the field on game day, there is a comprehensive operation happening behind the scenes focused on one thing: providing those players with the best possible care. At each NFL game, there is a team of more than 30 medical professionals working to ensure the health and safety of the athletes.
Two of those important roles are independent medical professionals: Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultants (UNCs) and Certified Athletic Trainer Spotters (ATCs). They are dedicated to watching every play to identify, assess and diagnose injuries in real-time.
Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultants (UNCs)
Each NFL game has three UNCs: one on each sideline, and one watching from the spotters' booth, which has a bird's eye view of the field. These three UNCs monitor the game and work with the team medical staffs to identify, screen for and diagnose concussions. UNCs are:
- Physicians who have no affiliation with NFL clubs. They are retained by the NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) jointly. They do not have any connection with the clubs playing the game.
- The foremost experts in their field. The vast majority are neurosurgeons or neurologists; others have a background in emergency medicine. All must have documented expertise and experience in the treatment of brain and spine injuries and are board certified.
- Trained in-person by the NFL and NFLPA before becoming eligible to staff NFL games. Throughout each season, they receive additional training to ensure they remain up to date on the latest protocols and best practices for identifying concussions.
Certified Athletic Trainer Spotters (ATCs)
ATC Spotters are located in a dedicated private booth overlooking the field of play. From their vantage point overlooking the field, their role is to monitor the entire field and also use video replay to help identify any player with potential head or neck injury for further examination by medical staff. ATCs are:
- Unaffiliated with NFL clubs. They must not have been employed with an NFL team within the last five years.
- Board certified, plus a minimum of 10 years experience as an ATC with significant college or professional sport experience.
- They are not tasked with injury diagnosis or treatment. Rather, they have the authority to halt play by calling a medical timeout if they observe a player who is still on the field of play who may have suffered a concussion or head injury.
In addition to their view from inside the stadium booth, ATC spotters and the booth UNC use a state-of-the-art Injury Video Review System (IVRS) created specifically for reviewing injuries on the field. This system, which is in place at every NFL game, gives the medical experts in the booth access to every camera angle in the stadium, well beyond what viewers see in the TV broadcast. Each game has an average of 16 camera angles that allow ATC spotters to immediately review plays from multiple vantage points. ATC Spotters are supported by two Injury Video Replay Technicians, who assist with video replay. Sideline UNCs and team physicians are required to review video as part of their evaluation of a potential player injury.
All game day care teams are committed to clinical care. They approach players as their patients and are committed to providing best-in-class medical care on game day.