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Panthers, Broncos Players Suffer Super Bowl Concussions

SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) -- While the Denver Broncos may have dominated the Carolina Panthers during Sunday's Super Bowl championship game, players on both teams suffered losses when they endured concussions during the game.

Panthers wide receiver Corey "Philly" Brown, 24, suffered a concussion during Super Bowl 50 as did Broncos linebacker Shaquil Barrett, 23, according to the National Football League.

Brown's concussion came during what the NFL dubs one of the game's "Can't Miss Plays," during the third quarter, which can be viewed here.

Brown left the game early and did not return to the field.

Barrett also left the game in the third quarter with a concussion that occurred while he was on the receiving end of a blindside hit.

The NFL has received increased scrutiny over how they handle head injuries, after dozens of former players have been posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), including former Oakland Raiders player Ken Stabler, who died in 2015.

Stabler was enshrined in the 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame over the weekend.

CTE, a progressive degenerative brain disease found in athletes and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma, currently can only be diagnosed posthumously.

Dr. Ann McKee, a professor of neurology at Boston University, conducted the study on Stabler's brain. Mckee told KCBS she was surprised by the number of CTE lesions in his brain. She said that the disease was very prevalent in Stabler's amygdala and hippocampus – areas of the brain "extremely important for learning and memory and emotional regulation."

The NFL says they have implemented game safety improvements and revamped their concussion protocols, but the 2015 NFL season saw a significant spike in concussions since 2014. The NFL's 2015 season, including the preseason and regular season games and practices, saw 271 NFL players suffer concussions, up 31.6 percent from 2014, according to the NFL's 2015 injury data.

The concussion incidents are at a four-year high, and neither the Panthers nor the Broncos were able to avoid concussions this season.

Including the Super Bowl game, four Broncos players suffered concussions this football season, while seven players on the Panthers have suffered from the head injuries.

On the Denver Broncos' side, tight end Vernon Davis, 31, linebacker Danny Trevathan, 25, and defensive end Malik Jackson suffered concussion earlier in the season.

Broncos players became especially aware of the dangers associated with CTE when, in October, an autopsy on the brain of former NFL linebacker Adrian Robinson, who committed suicide in May 2015 at age 25, found evidence of CTE according to researchers at Boston University's CTE Center. Robinson played for the Broncos in 2013.

On the Panthers side is linebacker Luke Kuechly, 24, linebacker A.J. Klein, 24, cornerback Teddy Williams, 27, safety JJ Jansen, 30, defensive tackle, Kyle Love, 29, and cornerback Josh Norman, 28, all suffered concussions earlier in the season.

New measures added to the NFL's concussion protocol may be part of the reason for the increased number of reported concussions in the NFL. However, the NFL has not said whether there were more concussions sustained during this season, or just more concussions identified and diagnosed.

The new safety measures include unaffiliated neurological trauma consultants on the sideline, as well as spotters in the press box. Medical personnel are also now able to call a timeout if the on-field staff misses a possible head injury.

The NFL is already facing a potential $1 billion concussion settlement, spurred by a lawsuit brought by former NFL players to compensate them for brain damage suffered during their careers. Players are in the process of demanding more money in that settlement.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday, during a pre-Super Bowl press conference, that there has been a "culture change" when it comes to concussions, but he also made some dismissive comments that left some people concerned.

Goodell said, "If I had a son I'd love to have him play the game of football because of the values you get. There's risk in life. There's risk to sitting on the couch."

Jeff Jones, a Boulder, Colorado resident visiting the Bay Area for the Super Bowl said, "I think that statement is talking down to the people watching football. Football is America's sport but they've got to make it more safe. Way too many injuries this year. Way too many people leading with their heads. And they've got to do something about it."

Leading up to the Super Bowl, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana talked about the concussions he suffered during his football career.

"The last concussion hurt. It was like a lightning bolt went through my head," Montana said, describing the blow that made him decide to end his football career.

By Hannah Albarazi - Follow her on Twitter

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