November 29, 2014 • FootballSports Medicine & Nutrition

Is your program equipped to protect athletes?

This fall, the University of Michigan football program drew criticism after quarterback Shane Morris took a nasty blow to the head, left the game for a short time and was reinserted into the game after being reviewed by doctors. It was later revealed he suffered a concussion, prompting many people to ask why he was put back on the field. The incident resulted in many fans and students calling for the jobs of head coach Brady Hoke and Athletic Director Dave Brandon.

Concussions deserve serious attention, but many high schools are still not adequately prepared to evaluate or treat athletes who suffer head injuries. Coach and Athletic Director surveyed more than 700 readers about concussions in sports. Here are the results along with some of their responses.

1: Who is at fault for the situation at Michigan, where Morris was reinserted into a football game after suffering a concussion? (Check all that apply)

“Who can say? This is another example of how difficult the recognition of concussions can be right after one has occurred. Second guessing always leaves questions.”

“Students try to hide concussion symptoms from trainers and coaches. Everyone is busy with athletes that you do not see what is happening on the field granted TV sees more than the people on the sidelines. The player should have sought help from teammates or teammates on the field should have noticed something was wrong.” 

“A coach in the middle of a game is coaching the game. There is a reason there are tons of trainers and physicians on the sidelines. Poor communication amongst the medical staff and possibly an athletic trainer getting distracted led to the mistake.”

“The officials are also at fault for not removing him, nor calling a penalty for the hit that caused the concussion. The entire medical staff is also at fault for not doing an evaluation on the sidelines and taking his helmet away.”

2: What should the punishment be for those responsible?

“I honestly don’t know. They have been punished by the media coverage in this matter. Everyone on that sideline who could see the hit should be told that in the future they can speak up. A team needs to be accountable to each other to protect the wellbeing of each player on the team.”

“If this is a first time incident, a review of policies and procedures is appropriate. If this is an ongoing problem, a reprimand of some sort is in order. It’s best to err on the side of caution.”

“I feel that your athletic trainers should educate players and coaches to notice this, and a group of student trainers could watch the game from a different place on the sidelines and not in the middle of a team on the sideline. Or have them watch the game on a TV that is on the sideline or invest in sensors that go into players’ helmets that record data on a computer.”

“Go through intensive training for concussion injuries, fine those responsible and make them pay for the medical expenses out of their own pocket. Let’s face the facts of today, not many are moved to improve unless there is potential monetary loss.”

3: What is your opinion on the heightened awareness of concussions and head injuries?

“As a coach and a parent, I sometimes think that the word concussion is overused in some cases where a student says that they have a headache after a game and the first thing out of anyone’s mouth is they must have a concussion. This statement is all too often used, even when a medical professional has not seen the athlete. But we all know that doctors cover their backside for fear of legal action.”

“The biggest issue comes down to players playing the way they see their position played at the next level. The coaches from peewee to the pros need to stress the importance to strength development and proper tackling and hitting.” 

“There needs to be an increase in athlete education. Not all concussions are caught by trained adults because of the smaller hidden symptoms. Teammates, roommates, friends and the athletes themselves should be aware of the symptoms and severity of the situation to help in the diagnosis since they are around the athletes more.” 

“We should do everything possible to protect our athletes, keeping in mind that things do happen, and when they do, be strong enough to stand by the plan in place.”

4: In your opinion, what’s the best way to combat head injuries like concussions? 

“Rules that protect defenseless players, penalties for leading with the head (spearing-like effect). I personally do not want anyone to get hurt. Concussions must be monitored, doctors involved and athletic trainers receiving a high degree of training. When in doubt, error on the side of safety.”

“Eliminate concussion-causing activities in those sports where they occur most frequently, like no longer allowing a header in soccer, no longer allowing a football player to lead with their head and enforcing the rule when they do, etc.”

“Better athlete awareness and education. Most athletes are more honest with their friends about symptoms than to their coaches and medical professionals. Also, there are a lot of symptoms that might be presented around friends and teammates that they may pick up on when an athlete is unguarded. A majority of athletes lie and guard themselves to medical professionals, making it difficult to diagnose.” 

“Better knowledge by physicians on how to treat concussions. Especially at the high school and kid sport levels, where there is no team physician who has specific knowledge of concussion protocols. Some primary care physicians are not up on concussion guidelines and don’t know how to treat them properly.”

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