Brain Injury Series Part 7: The NFL Concussion Protocol is Subject of Post-Season Review

Throughout the 2015 NFL season, fans were frequently advised that a player was entering the “concussion protocol” and would need to be “cleared” before returning to play.  Based on the observations of the sideline staff and a spotter located in the press box above the field, players will be evaluated on the sideline and removed from play if a concussion was suspected.

If confirmed, players then enter the concussion protocol.  It’s been estimated that close to 200 concussions were suffered by NFL players this past season, and in some of those cases the NFL concussion protocol missed its mark.

One of those cases involved the failure of sideline staff to remove Rams quarterback Case Keenum from the game after his head was slammed to the ground in the Rams’ Week 11 game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Another case involved the “clearance” of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III by team doctors just days after suffering a concussion, which was reversed the following day after an independent neurologist concluded that it was too early to clear him to return to competition.

Concussion Protocol

In light of the issues and concerns that were raised during the season, the NFL will undertake a review of its concussion protocol this offseason.  So what is the concussion protocol?

Despite its fancy title, the concussion protocol is a mere four-page document that sets out five steps a player who has been diagnosed with a concussion must complete in order to be cleared to play.

In 2015, there was no minimum time requirement that needed to be spent in one step before a player is allowed to proceed to the next, but that is one aspect of the protocol which may change for the upcoming 2016 season.

Here is a summary of the current concussion protocol:

Step 1:    Rest and recovery. Players are instructed to rest and avoid electronics and social media.  Some stretching and balance activity may be done if approved by medical staff.  Clearance to proceed to the next step can be given when the player returns to his previous baseline (pre-concussion) cognitive function test levels.

Step 2:    Light aerobic exercise.  At this point the player may begin a graduated exercise program supervised by the team’s medical staff.  The activities may include using a stationary bicycle and/or treadmill, dynamic stretching and balance training, with duration and intensity being gradually increased. If concussion symptoms return, the activity is discontinued.

Neurocognitive testing is conducted as the Team Physician, in consultation with the team’s neuropsychology consultant, determines is advisable.  The player will be permitted to go to the next step when he can engage in cardiovascular exercise without recurrence of concussion symptoms.

Step 3:    Continued aerobic exercise, introduction of strength training.  The Step 2 activities continue to be increased and weight training is added to the program.  Supervision and testing is continued as in Step 2 and when the player can engage in cardiovascular exercise and supervised strength training without recurrence of concussion symptoms, he may proceed to the next step.

Step 4:    Football-specific work.  Now the player is allowed to perform non-contact football drills (throwing, catching and running) as a part of his exercise program.  Contact is still not allowed at this step.  The player can go on to the final step when he tolerates these added activities without a recurrence of concussion symptoms and his neurocognitive testing has returned to baseline.

Step 5:    Full football activity, full clearance. The player resumes practicing with the team and is allowed to participate in full football activity involving contact. If full participation practice and contact are tolerated without the return of concussion symptoms and the team physician concludes that the player’s concussion has resolved, he may clear the player to return to full participation.

However, before the player is allowed to play in an actual game, he must be examined by an independent neurological consultant and given an independent confirmatory clearance.

Bradenton Brain Injury Attorneys

Hopefully, each year’s post season review will result in continued improvements to the NFL concussion protocol.  Parents, does your child’s athletic program have its own concussion protocol specially designed for children?

If your child suffered a concussion while participating in an athletic program and was not given adequate medical attention, please contact one of our brain injury attorneys to arrange for a free, no obligation consultation.

Source(s):, “NFL to review concussion protocol this offseason”, posted February 5, 2016; IBT Media, NFL Concussion Protocol: What Are The 5-Stages For Diagnosis And Management?, posted January 22, 2016;, What exactly is the concussion protocol?, posted December 20, 2013; The Washington Post, Explaining NFL’s concussion protocol, the five-step map for RGIII’s return, posted August 29, 2015; NFL Return To Play Protocol

Golf Cart Series Part 4: All Aboard the B-Town Shuttle – It’s FREE!

One local company is providing a wonderful FREE shuttle service in downtown Bradenton, Village of the Arts, Tarpon Point, Riverwalk and all the way to McKechnie Field.  The service not only helps people get around town, it also gives people the chance to experience the fun and convenience of riding in a Low Speed Vehicle.  It’s called the B-Town Shuttle Service and it’s hard to miss with its bright yellow custom built six-passenger Low Speed Vehicles traveling around the Bradenton entertainment district.

The B-Town Shuttle Service is the brainchild of its owner, Kimberly O’Keefe, who came up with the idea after spending a day downtown and thinking “I really wish there was a shuttle service here.”

So, after 35 years of working in computers and bookkeeping, she bought a Low Speed Vehicle with her own money and began providing complimentary pick-ups and drop-offs.  In addition, the company has an active Facebook page that lets locals know all about what is happening in the area.

Local business operators, including Mike Gold of the B’Towne Coffee Company on Old Main Street, not only love it but are helping to keep going by supporting it through advertising.  That support is what is keeping the service free to riders, although tips are certainly welcome.

O’Keefe says the B-Town Shuttle Service is looking forward to serving the citizens of Manatee County for many years to come and expanding its services to meet the needs of the community.  For information, call 941-238-8873 or email

As a final note, the B-Town Shuttle Service assures its riders that it is licensed and insured.  We’ll be exploring those subjects in upcoming posts.  The entire firm of Heintz & Becker offers its enthusiastic appreciation to Kimberly O’Keefe and the B-Town Shuttle Service and we encourage everyone to get on board and support this valuable service.

Source(s):  Bradenton Herald, “New B-Town Shuttle service coming to downtown Bradenton”, posted March 3, 2015, WWSB My Suncoast, “Bradenton residents create free B Town Shuttle service”, posted May 4, 2015, Bradenton Herald letter to the editor, “B-Town golf cart service meets legal requirements”, posted May 16, 2015

Heintz & Becker Golf Cart Series Part 3: Low Speed Vehicles and “Street Legal” Golf Carts

As we discussed in our last post, Golf Carts are not ordinarily allowed to be used on Florida’s public roads or streets outside of self-contained retirement communities such as Sun City Center.  What are allowed are “Low Speed Vehicles” (sometimes called “Street Legal Golf Carts”) which may be used on Florida roads with a posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less.  So, what is a Low Speed Vehicle?

Golf Cart Safety

Low Speed Vehicles are not only growing in popularity with individuals, they are also growing in popularity with businesses and public and private organizations.  Under Florida Law, a Low Speed Vehicle is any four-wheeled electric vehicle whose top speed is greater than 20 miles per hour but not greater than 25 miles per hour.  Low Speed Vehicles must comply with certain State and Federal safety standards and be equipped with a windshield; rearview mirror; head, tail and brake lights; reflectors; parking brakes; seat belts and vehicle identification numbers.  Because Low Speed Vehicles are generally intended for “low risk” trips for neighborhood shopping, social, and recreational purposes, the safety standards for Low Speed Vehicles are much lower than those for standard automobiles.

Low Speed Vehicle Registration

A Low Speed Vehicle must be registered and insured in the same way as a standard automobile and any person operating a Low Speed Vehicle must have a valid driver’s license.  While some companies specialize in manufacturing their own brand of Low Speed Vehicle, like the Polaris® GEM® and Atomic Electric Vehicle, many Low Speed Vehicles are simply jazzed up Golf Carts.  This is where the term “Street Legal Golf Cart” comes from, which means an ordinary Golf Cart which has been modified to meet Low Speed Vehicle standards.

Golf Cart Safety Attorneys

Stay tuned for more essential information about Golf Carts and Low Speed Vehicles, including safety and insurance information and where you can go right here in Bradenton to experience riding around town in a Low Speed Vehicle for FREE.  Whatever your vehicle of choice may be, car, truck, motorcycle, Golf Cart or Low Speed Vehicle, our experienced accident attorneys are here to help if you should ever be seriously injured in an accident caused by someone else’s carelessness.  Call us to find out how we may be able to help you obtain financial compensation for your injuries.

Source(s):  Florida Statute §316.2122 Operation of a low-speed vehicle or mini truck on certain roadways;, “Greater Sun City Center Golf Cart Drivers Handbook”; Florida Driver License Handbook

Heintz & Becker Boating Safety Series Part 7: Small Craft Advisories

We all heard the recent news of that luxury cruise ship that sailed right into weather so horrific that some passengers were fearful for their lives.  So, how was it possible that the cruise line was unaware of the severity of the weather?  Would you take out your boat without checking the weather first?

In our area, we often turn on the morning news and hear that a “Small Craft Advisory” is in effect?  We may all be accustomed to hearing this, but, surprisingly, other than “exercise caution,” many boaters really don’t know what exactly what a Small Craft Advisory is or that the single red pennant shown below is the standard marine flag indicating that a Small Craft Advisory is in effect. Continue reading

Heintz & Becker Golf Cart Series Part 2: Everyone knows what a Golf Cart is – Right?

Yes, we all know what a golf cart is – in the general sense. But, for purposes of Florida Law, a “Golf Cart” has a limited, specifically defined meaning. Florida Law defines a “Golf Cart” as a motor vehicle that is designed and manufactured for operation on a golf course for sporting or recreational purposes that is incapable of going faster than 20 miles per hour.

While the operation of Golf Carts on public roads or streets is generally prohibited within Florida that prohibition has been lifted within a number of self-contained retirement communities, including Sun City Center, where all streets are approved for Golf Cart use by anyone age 14 and up.

Golf Cart Community Safety

Sun City Center permits the operation of Golf Carts between sunrise and sunset. For safety reasons, Golf Carts may not be operated at night. The only safety features that Golf Carts are required to have are efficient brakes, reliable steering, safe tires, a rearview mirror, and red reflectors on the front and rear. It’s not necessary to have a valid drivers’ license, nor is it required to register Golf Carts with the Florida Division of Motor Vehicles or have a Florida vehicle License Plate. There is also no requirement that the driver or owner have any insurance coverage(although, as we will cover in an upcoming installment, we strongly advise against not having insurance). The rules we are describing are those in effect in Sun City Center as of the date of this post, however, it is important to keep in mind that the specific rules that apply to Golf Cart usage may vary from one community to the next and can change from time to time.

Who Can Drive in Golf Cart Communities?

Sun City Center and similar communities allow retirees who no longer have a drivers’ license or who no longer want to own an automobile to be able to maintain their independence and easily get from place to place within their self-contained community by Golf Cart. It’s easy to see how these communities can be especially helpful to seniors who can no longer drive an automobile due to health or other issues, but who do not want to lose their independence or have to rely on others for transportation.

Low Speed Vehicles or LSV

Our next post will explain what a “Low Speed Vehicle” or “LSV” is, what the term “street legal” means, and how certain upgrades can transform a Golf Cart into a “street legal” Low Speed Vehicle. Heintz & Becker is providing this information for our readers who either own a Golf Cart or a Low Speed Vehicle or who are considering buying one. Make sure to continue to follow our blogs for more valuable information on this and other important topics and remember that our experienced accident attorneys are here to help with your injury-related claims.

Source(s):, “SCC golf cart driving exemption a privilege, not entitlement”, posted January 6, 2016; Baby Boomer Retirement, “Golf Cart Friendly Retirement Communities”, posted March 24, 2013;, “Greater Sun City Center Golf Cart Drivers Handbook”;Florida Driver License Handbook

Heintz & Becker Brain Injury Series Part 6: Second Impact Syndrome – a Rare Catastrophic Consequence of Multiple Concussions in Youth Athletes

The ever expanding medical evidence documenting the harmful effects of concussions has caused serious concerns about sports-related concussions in youth athletes.  One particularly serious concern is an event that can happen in rare instances in young people who suffer a second concussion while still in the process of recovering from a previous concussion.  Aptly called “Second Impact Syndrome” or “SIS,” it can result in catastrophic brain swelling that typically leads to death or severe permanent disability.

What is Second Impact Syndrome?

Second Impact Syndrome has a staggering 90 percent mortality rate.  Victims who beat the odds and survive are usually left with serious permanent disabilities such as severe cognitive issues or being unable to talk or walk.  Doctors believe that the risk of Second Impact Syndrome is limited to high-school and college-aged individuals whose brains have not finished growing.  As a result of this and other concussion-related concerns, the “gladiator mentality” of taking hits and getting back on the field is out and the consensus is that athletes who may have suffered a head injury need to be taken out of the game and evaluated.

Brain Injury Safety Guidelines

The latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide that players with signs of concussion should refrain from playing until they have their physician’s permission to resume play and exhibit no symptoms with exertion.  Many coaches and trainers have adopted a new the rule of thumb: “Safety first, if there’s doubt, keep them out.”  In addition, it’s important for people to know that the issue is not limited to boys and football.  It applies to both boys and girls in all types of physical sports.

New Rules for Brain Injuries?

Efforts to protect young athletes from concussions and their adverse effects are being made across the board.  The rules of play are changing to reduce instances of helmet to helmet contact and efforts are ongoing to develop helmets that will provide better protection against concussions.  Parents are being educated and discouraged from pressuring coaches to put their children back into games.  Youth athletes are being encouraged to report any symptoms to coaches and parents.

Ultimately, however, most people believe that it is the coaches and trainers of young athletes that must bear the principal responsibility for monitoring players, removing players with possible head injuries, and requiring those players to be evaluated and treated by competent medical professionals before allowing them to resume play.  In addition, school districts and organizers of youth sports programs need to be responsible for making sure their coaches and trainers are educated about concussions and for implementing detailed concussion policies providing information and guidance for coaches, trainers, players and parents.

Bradenton Brain Injury Lawyers

The accident lawyers at Heintz & Becker support youth sports programs.  At the same time, we strongly believe that no youth athlete should be allowed to practice or play if they are suspected to have a concussion until they have been cleared to play by a doctor who has expertise in evaluating and treating concussions.  Anyone ignoring concussion symptoms and allowing a player to stay on the field or otherwise endangering the health or safety of youth athletes needs to be held accountable.

If you are a parent of a youth athlete who has suffered serious harm due to the wrongful conduct of a coach, trainer or other member of your child’s sports organization, please call us and tell us your story.  You may not only be entitled to pursue a claim for monetary damages, your actions may also help prevent the same thing from happening to someone else’s child.

Source(s): The Baltimore Sun, “Maryland bill would suspend coaches for playing athletes with concussions”, posted January 29, 2016;, “Bill would punish coaches who don’t bench youth players with concussion symptoms”, posted January 30, 2016; ABC News, “High School Football Player Victim of ‘Second Impact Syndrome'”, posted January 1, 2013; NYU School of Medicine,“Concussion Across the Spectrum of Injury: The Latest Diagnosis and Management”, posted January 2016

Golf Cart Series Part 1: Serving Our Growing Number of Golf Cart Lifestyle Clients

The number of people choosing to travel by traditional golf carts and newer “street legal” versions just keeps growing.  In addition to beautiful communities like Sun City Center and the Villages, where golf carts number in the tens of thousands, many people all over our region are joining the golf cart movement.  To better serve our growing number of golf cart owner clients, as well as all of those contemplating getting a golf cart, we are launching a new series that will provide much needed information on a variety of golf cart related topics.

Given that we have many readers who are thinking about getting a golf cart for short trips close to home, but who don’t know much, if anything, about the applicable state and local requirements, we are going to start at the beginning and go forward from there.  Our starting point will be to educate our readers about the differences between the traditional golf cart intended to be used on the golf course and the new generation of “street legal” versions.

We’ll be talking about the physical differences, who may drive them, and where and when they may be driven.  For example, even though traditional golf carts and “street legal” versions (also called “low speed vehicles”) are operated side by side and share the streets within Sun City Center, it may surprise people to hear that a drivers’ license is NOT required for drivers of traditional golf carts and traditional golf cart owners are NOT required to register their golf carts or carry any insurance whatsoever.

In addition to the confusion that this can cause owners and drivers, the different treatment of traditional golf carts and street legal versions creates a multitude of legal and liability concerns.  We’ll be covering a number of those legal issues including registration requirements and insurance and liability concerns in detail in our upcoming posts.  We’ll also be providing information about golf cart accidents and accident prevention that all current and prospective golf cart owners need to know.

The Bradenton injury attorneys at Heintz & Becker represent victims of all types of vehicular accidents, including golf cart accidents in the Sun City Center and Villages communities and elsewhere throughout the State of Florida.  If you or a member of your family has been hurt in a golf cart accident, you need to find a firm that is qualified to handle your case.  Call us to arrange for a free, no-obligation consultation today.

Boating Safety Series Part 6: Tips for Stocking Your Boat’s First Aid Kit

Boaters, when is the last time you checked your first aid kit? If you can’t recall, then it’s time to make sure that your first aid kit is waterproof and fully stocked with fresh supplies. You want to be prepared to deal with common medical issues ranging from sunburn and insect bites, headaches and nausea, and cuts and fishhook injuries. Feeling ill or getting hurt on the water is bad enough. Not having anything on hand to treat the problem can turn a manageable issue into a more serious situation.

Boating First Aid KitWhether you buy a prepackaged kit or build your own, here are some useful marine first aid kit pointers:

  • Keep everything in a waterproof case so your supplies won’t get ruined.
  • Buy a First Aid Handbook and write down emergency contact numbers on the inside cover.
  • Keep an assortment of general purpose over-the-counter medications: Ibuprofen (Advil), Acetaminophen (Tylenol), Aspirin, Antihistamine Tablets (Benadryl), Glucose Tablets, and remedies to prevent or treat motion sickness, indigestion, diarrhea, or heartburn.
  • Have the basics for treating minor injuries: tweezers, scissors, butterfly closures, sterile gauze pads/wound dressings, first aid tape, antiseptic towelettes, antibiotic ointment, adhesive bandages, rolled bandages and clips, prepackaged eye wash solution and eye drops, cotton swabs, and chemical ice packs.
  • Make sure to have needle-nose pliers and side-cutters for cutting and extracting fish-hooks.
  • Buy special prepackaged kits for controlling bleeding, closing wounds and treating burns.
  • Don’t forget anti-itch lotion for insect bites, sunburn, and other minor skin irritations.
  • Complete your kit with bottled water, hand sanitizer, barrier gloves, wet wipes and clean towels.
  • Remember to check your kit each year at the start of boating season to restock supplies and replace medications that are past their expiration date.

In addition to putting your marine first aid kit together, consider taking first-aid and CPR training courses to better prepare yourself to handle emergency situations. The attorneys at Heintz & Becker urge all boaters to be responsible and be prepared. We hope you find this information helpful and keep coming back for more boating safety tips.

Source(s):, “Small Boat Marine First Aid Kits”, posted November 17, 2009; U.S. Coast Guard, “Marine First Aid Kits”, posted November 18, 2011

Painkillers and Children – Concerns about What the FDA is Doing are Increasing

By Steve Heintz of Heintz & Becker on Wednesday, January 13, 2016.

Is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) making the right decisions when it comes to the issue of painkillers and children, or has it become a pawn of the pharmaceutical industry? Some are saying that a recent FDA decision is flawed and may put our children at risk of becoming the next generation of drug addicts.

In August, the FDA issued a shocking approval of the use of the narcotic painkiller OxyContin for children as young as 11 in certain situations. Just as shocking was who the FDA got the information it relied on in making its decision from: Purdue Pharma of Stamford, Conn., the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the drug and who stands to make big money from the FDA approval. That same company admitted to falsely playing down the addictive nature OxyContin just a few years earlier.

OxyContin is an extremely powerful and highly addictive long-release version of oxycodone which is intended to be limited to patients with severe and chronic pain. It’s also a drug of choice for many drug addicts. Shortly after the FDA’s announcement, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin wrote that he was “disgusted” by the decision, saying the decision was “reckless” and “a horrifying example of the disconnect between the FDA approval process and the realities the deadly epidemic of prescription drug abuse are having on our communities” that “endangers the lives of our most precious asset and the nation’s future: children.”

childs hand-thumb-221x174-67823While it is true that doctors need to be able to treat children in severe pain, such as those suffering from bone cancer or who have undergone spinal surgery, several members of Congress sent a letter to the FDA in December strongly urging it to reconsider its decision. The letter criticizes the FDA’s decision-making process, saying “as other federal agencies…work to combat this growing epidemic, we find it startling that the FDA took this action without the benefit of review and input from an Advisory Committee. And, most egregiously, that the FDA relied solely on an evaluation conducted by the pharmaceutical company who stands to benefit from the sale of this drug.”

Unfortunately, the ongoing arguments and accusations are of no help to parents who may be faced with agonizing medical care decisions for their children. Heintz & Becker provides legal representation for families of children who have suffered extreme pain after being injured in traffic crashes or other accidents. Our attorneys know that the parents of these children often suffer just as much as they try to comfort their children and find the right doctors who can safely treat their children’s pain. If your child is suffering from extreme pain due to someone else’s negligence, please contact one of our attorneys for a free, no-obligation evaluation of your claim for financial compensation on behalf of your child.

Source(s):, “Increased opioid addiction feared”, posted January 9, 2016; NBC News, “FDA Approves OxyContin for Children as Young as 11”, posted August 14, 2015, posted September 21, 2015; Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, “Press Release: Tsongas leads letter to FDA urging reconsideration of decision on OxyContin use by children”, posted December 22, 2105; U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, “Press Release: Manchin Condemns Outrageous FDA Decision to Approve OxyContin for 11 Year Olds”, posted August 17, 2015

Get Ready to Rock for Local Families in Need!

On Saturday, January 23, 2016 from 4:00 – 9:00 p.m., Bradenton’s Knights of Columbus, St. Josephs Council 5604, will be presenting a live rock-and-roll concert called “A Knight of Rock” at Mixon Fruit Farms featuring the Survivors of Rock and GoodByEddie. The purpose of the event is to raise money to create a Catholic Charities Sugar Bowl Fund to help local families suffering from an economic hardship. Local favorite GoodByEddie, headed by local music legend Doug Henderson, will open the concert at 4:30 p.m. At 7:00 p.m. the iconic Survivors of Rock will take the stage featuring former members of Iron Butterfly, Captain Beyond, Alice Cooper, Thee Image, Spiral Staircase, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, Blues Image and Cactus.

Food, beverages, beer and wine will be available for purchase and band members will be available for meeting and autographs at the end of show. A limited number of tickets are available at Mixon Fruit Farms and through Bradenton area Knights of Columbus Councils for a donation of just $10.00 each. Sponsorship opportunities are also available for individuals and businesses wanting to do more to help this worthwhile cause. Mixon Fruit Farms is located 10 minutes west of I-75 at 2525 27th Street East in Bradenton. Seating will be limited so concert goers may wish to bring their own chairs. For more information go to Knights of Columbus on the web, email Richard at or give Richard a call at 941-773-1061.

Click play below for a preview of GoodByEddie performing “Love Somebody Like You:”

Everyone at Heintz & Becker is excited to spread the word about this fantastic fundraising event. It’s events like these that make our local community one of the very best in the entire State of Florida. We hope that everyone attending has a great time and remind concert goers to plan ahead to make sure they get there and get home safely.