Allow me to preface the following by stating this is neither defense nor indictment of Matt Scott, Rich Rodriguez or Arizona athletic training personnel. The situation that arose Saturday has UA at the center of national attention, and the Wildcats present a valid case study for addressing the most vexing issue today in sports. Kevin Zimmerman began the discussion here on Desert Swarm, and Monday's news that Scott is probable for a start against UCLA this coming weekend furthers the issue.
Details from medical analysis of Scott should surface Thursday, when the team releases its weekly injury report. In the meantime, Scott (not a doctor) told reporters on Monday that vomiting immediately following a cringe worthy shot to the head in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 39-36 defeat of USC was the result of exhaustion, not a concussion. Per The Tucson Citizen's Anthony Gimino:
"I ran two plays and got winded, honestly," he said at the football team’s weekly news conference Monday.
"That’s why I threw up. I felt it coming on two or three plays before that. I was trying to hold it down, but eventually it came up.
Gimino's report is well worth your time, as it includes head coach Rich Rodriguez's (also not a doctor) recap of what occurred in the moments between the hit on Scott, and the latter's touchdown pass to David Richards.
The timing of Scott's vomiting raised red flags. The redshirt senior carried a season high 15 times, and was frequently in harm's way while sliding. On that particularly play, he was unable to avoid collision. The violence with which Scott was struck, combined with Scott's immediate reaction made for a tense few moments as Scott remained in action.
And those few snaps have elicited some strong responses; some stronger than others:
What contract do college athletes sign that save coaches from being culpable for concussion-related negligence? Rich Rod should go to jail.— Isaac Rauch (@IkeRauch) October 28, 2012
Whether precautionary or the result of a failed concussion test, Scott was not on the field for the Wildcats' final possession. That would seemingly validate immediate assumptions that the quarterback had been concussed.
A similar situation occurred in Week 8 when Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller was pulled down on a tackle and appeared to bounce his head on the turf. Miller remained down for several minutes and needed help off the field, and was later taken to Wexner Medical Center in an ambulance.
Miller's injury appeared much worse than it apparently was, as tests returned negative for head, neck or shoulder trauma and Miller played in Week 9 against Penn State. He played great, too, rushing for 134 yards and two touchdowns, and passing for a third.
Simply performing on the field doesn't equate a clean bill of health, though; doctor's clearance does. Scott throwing a touchdown pass just a few snaps after his collision does not mean something wasn't amiss. BJ Denker took the field on the final drive for a reason, whether that reason was a concussion or exhaustion.
Competitors are going to do what it takes to stay on the field. Exploits like Ronnie Lott amputating part of a finger are romanticized to almost mythical proportions. There's no secret that a similar mindset is in effect when athletes ignore concussion symptoms, though continuing on shouldn't be celebrated.
However, it's unlikely an athlete playing through these symptoms is cognizant he's doing so. As awareness of concussions and their long term effects increases, so do high profile retirements. Arizona State quarterback Steven Threet walked away from the game before the 2011 season. Rob Hankins would have played an integral role in Arizona's depleted linebacker corps this season, but opted for retirement. Both did so after convening with doctors.
That's a critical facet to the ongoing evolution of solving football's concussion problem. The players and coaches aren't doctors, thus are unqualified to properly assess. A coach can err on the side of caution and bench a player he believes his concussed, but we have to be realistic -- how often will that happen? An arbiter is necessary.
Medical personnel should play a more proactive role in the on-field decision making. Former North Carolina player and blogger Michael Felder is a champion of impact monitoring. Whatever changes are made, the decisions should be taken out of the hands of those who aren't medical professionals.