A few weeks ago we had ‘Woodsgate’, and in a game where USC was playing we now have ‘Scottgate’. Arizona quarterback Matt Scott took a kick to the head and was immediately witnessed and reported throwing up. Concussions are mainly a subjective injury, meaning we cannot “see” what is going on, however, there are times when a player/person exhibits signs of a traumatic head injury.
It has been my experience as an athletic trainer and one who deeply studies concussions that signs are often the best information we can get as clinicians/health care providers. I have never been around a player that has had overt signs such as: balance disturbance, slurred speech, wandering eyes or VOMITING and not had a concussion.
Oh, Scott was returned to play…
I could and have gone on about this many times (see the ‘Woodsgate’ link above or another Pac-12 team and ‘Lockergate’ a few years back), but I believe Dan Diamond did an excellent piece on this for Forbes;
Congratulations, University of Arizona. Your football team just scored a big win over USC–partly because your quarterback played through an almost-certain concussion.
To be fair, it was your biggest victory in two whole years. And the NCAA’s not going to penalize you, so why protect your player? It’s not like we’ve learned anything about football and head injuries.[...]
By keeping Scott on the field, Arizona had little to lose, other than the game; the NCAA’s concussion policy is toothless and links to some of their head-injury resources don’t even appear to be working on their website. (Try clicking on “Behind the Blue Disk: NCAA’s Approach to Concussions.”)
And despite everything we know about head injuries, the culture of complicity extends to those who cover the sport. I didn’t actually watch the game, but was told that the announcers were blasé about Scott playing through his big hit. The initial write-ups on ESPN and elsewhere didn’t mention the sequence of events; others even celebrated Scott’s toughness. “Arizona Wildcats upset USC Trojans behind Matt Scott’s heart,” wrote SB Nation’s Kevin Zimmerman.
(This isn’t an isolated incident. Just a few weeks ago, USC star receiver Robert Woods took a shot to the head in a game vs. Utah, stumbled around the field, and was administered a simple three-question concussion test before being allowed back on the field within minutes. As Utah Jazz announcer David Locke pointed out on Twitter, the two events show that “much of [the] concussion talk is lip service,” at least on the college level.)
Diamond is right, when it comes to winning and protecting student-athletes unfortunately some schools just don’t get it, perhaps never will.
Although not chronicled enough are the good decisions teams and medical staffs make. One example is that of Notre Dame and their starting QB, Everett Golson. In a tight game late against Stanford Golson took a hard hit and was clearly (to this observer) suffering signs of head trauma. The medical staff, headed by Athletic Trainer Rob Hunt, removed Golson and didn’t flinch. The next week when Golson had not been progressing well enough, they sat him when ND played BYU. With a properly managed concussion Golson was back on the field in his starting role this past week as The Irish stunned Oklahoma.
It is OK to miss a game. I really wish the NCAA and the Pac-12 would reign in their teams… There are examples of good decisions.