Concussion discussion Week 2 rage
There were plenty of injuries to star players during the NFL's opening weekend
Concussions, though, took center stage; it's even felt at the high school level
Ryan Grant's season-ending injury spells opportunity for Brandon Jackson
"Decimated." That word actually has a specific meaning, focused on an ancient Roman punishment. Some teams feel like they've been decimated and, in the modern sense, some have. There are a lot of injuries coming with "season-ending" tags on them, but remember that "season-altering" is just as bad from a fantasy context. While losing a top pick like a Ryan Grant is bad, it could have been any of the players in the top tier. You have to remember each player is one play, one moment away from ending things. After Tom Brady's near-miss accident -- in which the person in the other car is still in serious condition -- last week, we should all realize just how close we all are. Injuries are going to happen. You just have to be prepared, draft (and now find) depth, and focus on putting up points on a consistent basis. Given how many significant injuries we've had in Week 1, I wonder if the NFL and NFLPA will take a closer look at what an 18-game schedule might do to the health of players and the quality of play.
First, a heads-up: You're about to read about concussions. Each and every week, you'll likely read about a star player suffering this injury. Through the work of people like the Sports Legacy Institute and Alan Schwarz's Pulitzer-worthy work on the subject at The New York Times, the situation is starting to get taken more seriously. It's not just a problem in the NFL; we're seeing this in colleges and high schools, in baseball (Justin Morneau) and others. Dr. Tim Kremchek, the team physician for the Cincinnati Reds, has a facility for doing ImPACT testing at his clinic. He's seeing an explosion of need among area high school athletes. I watched Stand Up 2 Cancer, a benefit to raise money for a worthy cause, led by celebrities last week that aired on all the broadcast networks. It's time for sports to do the same. Each sports network - ESPN, Versus, NFL Network, MLB Network, even halftime of network games - would donate several hours of airtime for a similar benefit, both to raise money for research and for taking care of the players who are and will be disabled while it is figured out. Call it "Heads Up" or something, but it's time to take this issue seriously enough that we'll stop talking and actually do something. People will say "what does it take, someone being killed?" People, that's happened. It takes us taking it seriously, together.
Now, on to the injuries:
The story on the Eagles and concussions has been written largely and loudly this week, as it should be. The irony is that eagles trainer Rick Burkholder is one of the leaders in the field, a man who was selected by his peers to help formulate the new concussion policy and how it would be carried out. It's clear this wasn't incompetence; this was either a mistake -- a terrible one -- or this policy is unable to be carried out under the current conditions.
With four full-time athletic trainers, at least three doctors, and likely some sports medicine interns on the sidelines Sunday, the team still didn't have enough eyes to monitor the field while conducting an examination of an injured player. While I don't know the specifics of how the Eagles handle things on game day, one NFL athletic trainer shared how his team handles this: "First, I'm not criticizing Rick. This could happen to anyone. We try to have one [trainer] watching our guys at all times, two if possible. If there's two, one's watching the backfield, offense or defense, while the other is watching the line. The problem is when there is something that comes up, one of those guys now has to help with something or re-tape an ankle and, sometimes, not everything is getting watched. You can't count on the coaches, since they're as bad or worse than the players about reporting. It's just the game." I asked him whether there should be some form of communication between trainers, like the coaches, and their headsets. He thought that would be a good idea, but tough to get a team to agree to unless there was a league-wide mandate. He also liked the idea of having another trainer in the booth, watching for injuries, but "that's another salary."
With Dr. Robert Cantu saying proper evaluations take 10-15 minutes, NFL teams are going to have to get used to the idea they're going to lose players for quarters at a time or they're going to have to increase manpower on the sidelines.
There are a couple other issues within this story. The NFLPA initially said the Eagles had followed procedure on both concussions. I'm a bit dubious of how the union handled this. While concussions or any injury shouldn't be part of any labor ploy, I'd have liked to have seen someone, anyone, taking the side of the player on this, questioning the dangers. Second, I'm very concerned about how Kolb's injury was initially reported. The press was told Kolb had a "jaw injury." Well, yes, he did. He got hit on the jaw, resulting in a concussion. A few years ago, rugby's governing body came up with guidelines for concussions, putting a player out for 30 days after a concussion was suffered. The immediate consequence was concussions were only reported in the most serious cases, with the minor ones being hidden as things like "neck injury," "upper body bruise," and, yes, "jaw injury." We're going to have to keep a close eye to make sure the NFL doesn't start using weasel words like this.
As for Kolb and Bradley's availability, Kolb is out after failing his concussion screening on Monday. The policy requires five symptom-free days before a return and the Eagles responded quickly by saying he'd be unavailable. There's been no word on Bradley, though that will be clarified when the OIR is released.
Watching any player get his knee blown out is tough. Leonard Weaver's was ugly, reminding me of Napoleon McCallum, which was the worst injury I've seen on an NFL field as far as sheer "eww" factor. Jenkins' injury, happening so early and so clearly on the replay, made me first cringe and then wonder -- why was he not wearing a brace? Jenkins, coming off knee surgery last year, has no excuse for not protecting himself. With Weaver, it's a bit more understandable, but time and time again, I saw players without available safety equipment. I wish I could remember who, but there was a QB last weekend who got rolled up on, almost Tom Brady-style, and just got lucky. Knee braces are light, inexpensive, and could prevent million-dollar injuries for players. Even a top-of-the-line brace like this one costs about $900. Jenkins is making about $2.2 million in salary this season, which might have been saved if he'd been wearing a brace. Both players are done for the season, with Jenkins having many questions about a return at all.
After Week 1, Ryan Grant's season is over. Immediately after the game, there were varying reports about the severity of his injury. I was told Grant had a Grade II ankle sprain after an inversion sprain. He was put in a Louisiana wrap, then a walking boot as he left the stadium. It turns out is was much more than that: a rupture of one of the strongest ligaments, which is rare due to the ankle's structural nature. You seldom see this occur without a fracture, but that's the report. The result is surgery to repair the ligament, the placing of Grant on the IR, ending his season.
I asked Dr. Philip Kwong, the top foot and ankle guy in the country, of Kerlan-Jobe about this unusual injury and he told me this is one of the most severe ankle injuries. His expectation was someone with this injury wouldn't be weight-bearing for three months and even at the six-to-twelve-month mark, the prognosis is going to be unknown. That means we might not know if Grant can come back from this until training camp next year. The immediate impact is the elevation of Brandon Jackson to a top-20 standing among RBs. He's sure to be the subject of bidding wars and waiver claims this week. Remember, Grant himself was a castoff who couldn't crack the RB rotation in New York. All he needed was an opportunity and the right system. That's what Jackson is about to get.
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