October 1, 2014 • Sports Medicine

Michigan AD responds to concussion mishap

Concussion awareness has gone through the roof over the last few years, but despite pressure on coaches to use extreme caution with their athletes, mistakes continue to be made.

Over the last three days, a lot has been made of Michigan quarterback Shane Morris’ condition during Saturday’s 30-14 loss to Minnesota. Morris took a brutal hit to the head, staggered to his feet and stayed in the game for another play. He was later put back in when backup quarterback Devin Gardner had to leave for one play due to an issue with his helmet.

Morris didn’t look right. You knew it watching the game at home, the commentators knew it, but somehow the coaching staff didn’t know it. They thought he was OK, and now, days later, what everyone suspected is finally confirmed: Morris has a concussion.

From a statement released today by Michigan Director of Athletics Dave Brandon:

In my judgment, there was a serious lack of communication that led to confusion on the sideline. Unfortunately, this confusion created a circumstance that was not in the best interest of one of our student-athletes. I sincerely apologize for the mistakes that were made. We have to learn from this situation, and moving forward, we will make important changes so we can fully live up to our shared goal of putting student-athlete safety first.

I, along with Darryl (Conway) and our administrative and medical teams, have spent much of the last two days carefully reviewing the situation regarding Shane Morris. We now understand that, despite having the right people on the sidelines assessing our student-athletes’ well being, the systems we had in place were inadequate to handle this unique and complex situation properly.

With his permission, I can share that Shane Morris suffered an ankle injury during the third quarter of Saturday’s game. He was evaluated for that injury by an orthopedic surgeon and an athletic trainer several times during the game. With each of these evaluations it was determined that his ankle injury did not prevent him from playing.

In the fourth quarter, Shane took a significant hit and stumbled after getting up. From the field level and without the benefit of replays, medical and coaching staffs did not see the hit. Because they did not see the hit, the athletic training staff believed Shane stumbled because of his ankle injury. The team neurologist, watching from further down the field, also did not see the hit. However, the neurologist, with expertise in detecting signs of concussion, saw Shane stumble and determined he needed to head down the sideline to evaluate Shane.

Shane came off the field after the following play and was reassessed by the head athletic trainer for the ankle injury. Since the athletic trainer had not seen the hit to the chin and was not aware that a neurological evaluation was necessary, he cleared Shane for one additional play.

The neurologist and other team physicians were not aware that Shane was being asked to return to the field, and Shane left the bench when he heard his name called and went back into the game. Under these circumstances, a player should not be allowed to re-enter the game before being cleared by the team physician. This clearly identifies the need for improvements in our sideline and communication processes.

You can read the full statement here, but there are a lot of unanswered questions. How does a university that invests so much in its football program and staff not have an acceptable system for assessing injured athletes? How did everyone on the sideline miss the hit to Morris’ head? Why did head coach Brady Hoke say Saturday that it was his decision to leave Morris in the game and then backtrack a day later and point the finger at the medical staff? Why is the one person responsible for evaluating players for a concussion sitting up in a box and not standing on the sideline?

Michigan messed up, regardless of how you look at it. And if the team’s on-the-field struggles weren’t enough to have people calling for Hoke’s job, this has certainly fanned the flames. Fans have even started a petition calling for the resignation of Brandon, citing a number of shortcomings in his leadership since he took over in 2010. Early this afternoon the petition already had more than 6,100 signatures.

We would like to hear feedback from coaches on this topic. Should Michigan’s coach and athletic director be dismissed? What’s your team’s policy on potential head injuries and how do you handle players who may be concussed? Do you have the resources during games to identify whether a player may have suffered a head injury?

Let us know in the comments section below or send an email to [email protected].

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