Football teams have come a long way when it comes to concussion education, though a recent study suggests that this education journey is more of an ultramarathon than a 5K.
According to a survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education, 42 of 101 head athletic trainers have said they've been pressured by a coach to allow a player who has suffered a concussion to return to the game.
In a 2010 survey, almost half of the schools that responded said a player had re-entered a game after a concussion diagnosis. And according to the Chronicle, "more than a dozen" FBS trainers have been demoted or fired because of those disagreements.
A concussion diagnosis made during competition is often hardest for coaches to accept. A few years ago, a former football trainer in the Big East Conference says he took away a player's helmet during a game after he was diagnosed with a concussion.
The trainer says the head coach confronted him on the sidelines, asking what would happen if he gave the athlete someone else's helmet.
"If something bad happens," the trainer says he told the coach, "you're on your own." (The player did not go back into the game, but the trainer later lost his job.)
Yikes. (In an attempt to crack down on the number of concussions, the NCAA has implemented a targeting penalty and automatic ejections this season for tacklers who are deemed to have hit a defenseless player above the shoulders.)
On Wednesday, three former college football players filed a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA in Tennessee saying that the governing body didn't do enough about concussions and failed to educate players. The players are Chris Walker and Ben Martin, who played at Tennessee through 2011 and Dan Ahern, whose final season was at NC State in 1976. Nine different law firms are part of the suit, including Michael Hausfield, who is the lead attorney in Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit against the NCAA over players' likenesses. As of August 19, the NCAA was considering settling another lawsuit that was filed in 2011. A status hearing is set for October 24.
The story details the rise of concussion diagnoses at Washington State last season. After averaging 12 per season before head coach Mike Leach arrived, there were 21 diagnosed concussions last season. That uptick can be related to increased awareness of head injuries, though according to sources mentioned, it created tension within the program. Bill Drake, the head athletic trainer, resigned in midseason last year.
Before coming to Washington State, Leach was embroiled in controversy involving Adam James, the son of Craig James, and Leach's alleged treatment of James after he suffered a concussion. Leach was ultimately fired, for reasons he said had to do with his contract.
While the Chronicle article is written from the trainers' perspectives -- there are two sides to every story, you know -- it's still an eye opening look at how trainers view the disconnect between themselves and coaches. While coaches will always feel pressure to win -- that's not changing -- this is another example that winning should be far behind the health of players' brains.