By: Allan M. Siegel
On a Saturday afternoon at the end of September, University of Michigan Quarterback Shane Morris took a crushing blow from a defensive player that brought him to the ground. When he tried to get up, Morris was visibly shaken and disoriented. Rather than remove him immediately from play, Michigan coaching staff left the sophomore in for two more plays.
Because a neurologist on the sideline was concerned about Morris, he was removed from the game for an evaluation. Before that evaluation was made, however, the replacement quarterback suffered a hit that caused his helmet to come off, which mandates removal under NCAA rules. Michigan coaches put Morris back into the game for one more play, without the knowledge or consent of medical staff.
The response to Michigan's decision to return Morris to the game was unprecedented. Across the nation, fans, medical experts, and safety advocates criticized the poor decision in the news and on social media. A number of people called for answers from head football coach Brady Hoke and University Athletic Director Dave Brandon. Students at the University of Michigan formed protests and gathered thousands of signatures on a petition calling for Brandon's removal.
When questioned after the game, Coach Hoke stated that he was unaware of the possible concussion and that all he knew was that Morris was dealing with an injured ankle. On Monday, Brandon released a statement saying that Morris was eventually diagnosed with a probable concussion. He apologized for the mistakes, citing a serious lack of communication, and detailed two immediate changes to Michigan's injury protocol:
- Michigan football will have an athletic medical profession in the press box or video booth to monitor games. The medical professional will have access to televised replay and will be able to communicate with personnel on the sidelines
- Michigan will evaluate ways for better communication and decision-making regarding injuries to student athletes, particularly between medical staff and coaches.
Although Michigan's actions to take a stronger stance on concussions come as the result of controversy, it is interesting to see just how strongly the incident resonated throughout the nation. Thanks to increasing coverage of the NFL lawsuit and the long-term consequences of concussions, more people have become aware of the need to protect athletes at all levels. Our firm advocates on behalf of athletes, and we firmly agree with medical experts who recommend that
when there is doubt about whether a player suffered a concussion, sit them out.
At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., we have long advocated for the prevention of brain injury in sports, and better concussion policies. In fact, Partner Joseph Cammarata helped draft the Athletic Concussion Protection Act of 2011. The Act, which became law in the District of Columbia, created strict return-to-play protocol for athletes 18 years of age and younger. We hope that incidents like this will soon be a thing of the past.