Rob Gronkowski will play in Super Bowl 52 after being cleared from the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Gronkowski left the AFC Championship Game after Jacksonville Jaguars safety Barry Church’s helmet made contact with his helmet in a head-to-head hit. Gronkowski was diagnosed with a concussion following the hit, which some people have called “dirty.” Church ended up being fined $24,309, according to ESPN.
Once a player has been diagnosed with a concussion, based on seven “observable symptoms” including loss of consciousness, clutching of head after contact, and balance problems, an NFL player must take part in the 5-step “Return-to-Participation Protocol,” which you can read about here.
If a team fails to follow the concussion protocol, they can be fined, according to the most recent revision of the NFL rulebook.
“During the offseason this year, the NFL added a measure that would punish teams that failed to properly enforce the concussion protocols. Any violation — either in-game or return-to-participation — could cost a team fines or even the forfeiture of draft picks,” reports SB Nation.
Gronkowski spent the past two weeks following the “Return-to-Participation Protocol,” which included light aerobic exercise supervised by an athletic trainer.
“I officially got the word today that I was cleared, so it was super nice to hear from the doctors going through the whole process. I’m ready to roll,” Gronkowski told the press on Thursday, February 1.
Gronk said that he took his time with his recovery, which required “more patience” than what he is used to. The team’s medical staff took it slow with his recovery, which he said “helped out big-time.”
“That definitely helped out big-time,” he said. “Just did every step, every day, and everything went smooth. … I knew it was going to happen. It was just when,” he added.
You can see Gronk talk about his concussion recovery in the video below.
Gronkowski did not play in Super Bowl LI due to an injury. In December 2016, he was placed on injured reserve after re-herniating the L5-S1 disc in his back. He originally herniated the disc in 2009, while playing in college.
Gronk underwent successful back surgery in California, and took several months to rehab and recover.
“Could he play again? Yes, definitely. But he’ll need to take a long hard look at it, talk to his family, his surgeon, his agent, discuss whether he wants to keep playing. That’s a personal decision he’ll need to reflect on. He’ll need to work it out with his family,” Dr. Thomas Gill, the Patriots’ team doctor until 2014 and Director of the Boston Sports Medicine and Research Institute, said at the time. “Not saying Gronk can’t do it. Not saying he would be the first. But the first I’m aware of. In sports medicine, past performance is a predictor of the future,” Gill added.
It seems clear that Gronkowski had no thoughts of leaving his football career behind, as he returned to play for the Patriots at the start of the 2017 season.
“I’ll be full speed, taking on hits, blocking, running routes, whatever. I’m super excited. I’m always excited to get back out there on the field. It’s one more opportunity this year to go out there and play the game I love to play,” Gronk told the press.