The handling of concussions in professional sports have been the easy target of people like me in the past. The hope was that with more stringent safeguards and protocols that this would not be an issue for much longer. The NFL has been an easy “whipping boy” because of its high visibility and constant coverage; now 2012 has its first head scratcher.
In the same game that Austin Collie was removed and sustained a possible career threatening concussion a rookie running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers had a run in with a concussion, or so it seemed. According to Ralph N. Paulk of TribLIVE, Rainey may have been allowed to play with injury, brain injury that is;
Chris Rainey repeatedly shook his head in an effort to clear the cobwebs after getting KO’d by Indianapolis cornerback Jerraud Powers in the first quarter of the Steelers’ 26-24 preseason victory Sunday night.
The rookie running back grudgingly relented to tests after being diagnosed with concussion symptoms by team medical personnel. After struggling to make it to the locker room, the fifth-round pick returned late in the second quarter.
The subjective description of how he went to the locker room added with the mechanism injury (see picture at link) would have been my first clue that the player in question was suffering. Add into the description by the player and it becomes a “no-brainer';
Still, Rainey said he took a heavy enough shot that he was momentarily unconscious.
“I woke up, and I’m still here,” said Rainey, who rushed six times for 20 yards and returned kickoffs. “I thought he dove at my head, and I thought there was a penalty.”[...]
“The hit was one of those ‘Welcome to the National Football League’ hits,” Rainey said. “I kept slipping on cuts, and I dropped a couple of passes. I didn’t like it. I’m taking all the opportunities I can, and sometimes you’ve got to deal with getting hit.”
As Paulk stated this situation is very similar to Colt McCoy last year – being allowed to return – and the Browns getting a tongue lashing from the Commissioner.
Listen, I am all for professional athletes taking the known information and making personal decisions about playing with an injury, concussions included. BUT, when a player is concussed in a game is he really of sound mind to make such possible life altering decisions? Does anyone have the clear mental capacity to make those decisions on brain injury when their brain is currently traumatically injured?
That is why there are protocols in place to take those decisions out of the hands of the player in the most competitive moments of their career. In the case of Rainey was the return to the game even beneficial for him? Doubt it. He was less than effective upon return; which in the NFL means Not For Long. Perhaps everyone can take a lesson from Rainey and sit out when hurt, especially when you hurt your brain.