University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban told the press Wednesday that quarterback Greg McElroy received a head injury in the second quarter of last Saturday’s game against the Florida Gators. According to Saban, McElroy displayed such poise during the game that his head injury went unnoticed until the fourth quarter, when he started calling plays wrongly.
A few days ago we reported how concussions and other forms of traumatic brain injury are affecting football players from the high school and college levels all the way to the NFL. Some researchers say that modern football helmets may be giving players a false sense of safety, fueling their courage to take more risks and play more aggressively.
While helmets do, of course, protect players’ heads from more severe impacts, they do not prevent concussions and forms of brain injury caused by the jarring motion of the brain within the skull from occurring. And although the symptoms of concussion (confusion and disorientation are commonly reported) may be mild at first, the cumulative effects of repeated injuries over the years can be severe and even devastating.
“He’s actually so poised and so good, he got hurt really in the second quarter and nobody knew it,” Saban told AL.com’s Tuscaloosa Bureau of McElroy. “He got hit in the head when he scrambled once, he got hit on the sidelines and it really affected him in the game, I think. We didn’t know it until the fourth quarter when he called the play wrong on the formation wrong, then tried to run the play that we signaled.”
Likewise, McElroy’s teammates showed no surprise that McElroy carried on despite his injury.
“If your opponent sees you’re down, it’s like smelling blood in the water,” Alabama center William Vlachos told AL.com. “That’s the mentality that people on our team take. If somebody’s hurting, you have to put the nail in the coffin. If Greg can walk and his arm is able to throw a football, he’s going to be out there doing all he can to lead our team.”
Several states are currently developing measures that would make it tougher for young athletes to return to play after receiving head injuries – a trend prompted by a number of individual cases and the attention head injuries have been given in the NFL.
Last year, Washington state led the way by passing the nation’s strictest return-to-play rule that forbids athletes under 18 years old who show signs of concussions from returning to play without a licensed medical professional’s written approval. A number of other states have similar legislation in the works.