Matt Scott incident demonstrates football culture's carelessness
A coach’s primary concern should be his players’ safety, not a win. But that’s not football culture.
Last Saturday, in a game against USC, quarterback Matt Scott slid in for a first down in his last drive of the game. As he did so, he was hit in the head by USC safety T.J. McDonald and linebacker Dion Bailey. Scott got up quickly, walked around a little and, as Austin Hill was trying to talk to him, threw up. Then he threw up again. Then he threw up again.
Head coach Rich Rodriguez was forced to take the team’s second timeout of the half. Shouts were heard from the ZonaZoo, fans yelling at Rodriguez to pull Scott out of the game, and as the team headed back onto the field, Scott was still back behind center.
Scott threw a beautiful pass into the end zone, but immediately after that play, he was brought to the bench and had his helmet taken away.
Later, Scott tweeted “Man all those people thinking I threw up because I got hit when I was really just tired haha.”
Rodriguez saw the exact same symptoms as the fans, announcers and everyone watching the game, and he even said that Scott “might have been a little foggy at the time.”
It’s possible that Scott was just dehydrated, but let’s look at the symptoms: head trauma, check. Repeated vomiting, check. Confusion, check.
“No one should return to play or vigorous activity while signs or symptoms of a concussion are present,” according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. “Experts recommend that an athlete with a suspected concussion not return to play until he or she has been medically evaluated.”
But Rodriguez isn’t the only coach that does this. It’s the football norm.
In May, more than 100 former NFL players filed a federal lawsuit against the league for failing to properly protect its players from concussions. The suit accused the professional football league of not doing enough to inform players of the dangers of concussions, and that not enough is being done to take care of them.
Lawsuits are also filed at the collegiate level, as in the case of former Bowling Green State University player Cody Silk. He joined the team in August 2010, and later sued the university, head coach and team trainers after he suffered “multiple concussions” that he said could have been prevented and weren’t properly treated.
A 2007 study of more than 2,500 retired NFL players found that those who had suffered at least three concussions during their careers were three times more at risk of clinical depression than other players.
A 2012 study of 3,500 retired players also linked concussions to neurodegenerative diseases. Players are four times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or Lou Gehrig’s diseases compared to non-players.
And yet it’s not football culture to worry about something as “minor” as a concussion. In Rodriguez’s statement about Scott being a little foggy, he made it sound as if this happens all the time, and it’s no big deal.
Rodriguez’s decision to disregard the safety of his players is indicative of not just his character, but of football culture’s complete disregard for the safety of its players.