With the NFL recently facing a lawsuit for a ton of money to settle an ongoing concussion claim from former players, it looks like the college ranks are looking for ways to shield themselves from similar legal action. Starting with the 2015 College Football betting season, the Big Ten and the SEC will be bringing in medical observers to the press box to watch out for players who may have incurred head injuries.
Analyzing How Mandatory Medical Observers are Likely to Affect NCAA Football Odds
— Brian Child (@BYUSportsCave) March 3, 2015
While team doctors are nothing new, these observers will not be a part of either team playing in the game. They will be either certified athletic trainers or physicians and will have open communication lines to both sidelines and to the officiating crew. If a player seems to have had a head injury but is still on the field for another play, the observer uses the equipment for the replay official to tip off the referee, who then brings play to a stop until the team takes its player off the field for evaluation. Even if it turns out that the player is all right, he still has to miss the next play unless his coach uses a timeout.
Even in cases when the player turns out to be fine, this makes sense. Study after study shows that players are the most vulnerable to long-term neurological damage when they have a second concussion before they recover completely from a first one. One reason why the medical observers will not be affiliated with either team is that they neither have an interest in keeping an injured player out there for just one more play – or taking him out at a crucial time (as might be suspected if teams’ doctors monitored each other players instead of those on their own side).
It’s All About The Players’ Health At The End
Some people may get upset to see their star quarterback coming out of the game at a crucial point late in the game, or their star defensive tackle come off the field while the other team is mounting a comeback drive. However, it’s important to take a step back and consider the wider implications of failing to protect players. Even now, such well-known athletes as former Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin and Cleveland Cavalier star LeBron James have come out and said that they don’t want their own children playing football.
This sort of PR does not bode well for the long-term future of NCAA football and the NFL, and so now the game needs to take some steps to convince parents that the game is changing in terms of safety. The NFL hasn’t really shown any discernible leadership in this area, but this decision by the SEC and Big Ten is significant. Having a player removed could significantly influence a game’s outcome, but one game is much less important than a player’s career – and health.
Let’s All Learn From Michigan’s Mistakes
One sign that this step is really necessary is that the fact that the head coaches in the SEC – long known as a group of hypercompetitive men who want to control every detail of their games – are going along with this without any complaints. The SEC officials did use video footage of Michigan quarterback Shane Morris as part of their presentation. In a game against Minnesota, Morris clearly incurred a head injury but waved away sideline assistance. Michigan coach Brady Hoke rightly took many lumps in the media for failing to notice his player’s injury and to get Morris out of the game immediately. Having observers like this in place will ensure that moments like that either stop happening altogether or become much less common. This will allow football to stay around in the decades to come, even if some final scores change significantly as a result.