Shane Morris, Brady Hoke, and Concussions

Fifteen minutes. That’s the minimum time it takes to complete a SCAT3, the test given to athletes who may be concussed.

Three minutes and fifteen seconds. That’s the time it took for Michigan quarterback Shane Morris to re-enter the game after sustaining what appeared to be a concussion.

Six hours and counting. That’s the time it’s taken, so far, for the Michigan medical staff to release the statement we were told to expect earlier today.

In Saturday’s 30-14 loss to Minnesota, Morris was battered throughout the game, sustaining hits that appeared to affect his leg. As he limped back to the huddle, it was clear he should be removed from the game. “Morris can’t move,” ESPN analyst Ed Cunningham said. “At this point, for the safety of the player, you have to get [back-up quarterback] Devin Gardner in…This seems a little dangerous to me.” And that was before Morris dropped back to release a pass and was rocked by a helmet-first tackle under his chin.

Walking towards the sideline breathing heavily and wincing, Morris collapsed into a teammate’s arms, as other teammates called for a sub. Morris remained in the game, and less than a minute later took the next snap and threw another incomplete pass. Twenty seconds after that, he finally exited the game in place of Gardner. “It is appalling that he was left in on that play,” Cunningham said. “That is terrible looking after a young player.”

Four plays and 115 seconds later, when Gardner’s helmet came off, thus forcing Michigan to use a timeout or remove him from the game, Morris re-entered and took a snap, handing off to a running back.

Item No. 3 of the NCAA’s Concussion Management Plan (emphasis mine):

“All student-athletes who are experiencing signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with concussion…must be removed from practice or competition and referred to an athletic trainer or team physician experienced in concussion management…(who) should conduct and document serial clinical evaluation inclusive of symptom inventory and evaluation of cognition and balance.”

“It was obvious to anyone who saw him in the aftermath of that hit that he was not right,” says Kenneth Perrine, a clinical neuropsychologist at New York Presbyterian/Weill-Cornell Medical College and the consulting neuropsychologist for the New York Jets and New York Islanders, where he evaluates players with concussions. “At the very least he could have sustained a concussion.”

Because Morris showed “signs” and “behaviors” of a concussion, he should have been removed from the game immediately and given a SCAT3 evaluation. Someone from Michigan’s medical staff appeared to be talking to Morris on the sideline, but it appeared the conversation focused on his leg. We know for certain a thorough concussion evaluation did not take place, as those take 15-30 minutes to complete. “The Michigan medical staff bears responsibility for whether or not to do a sideline assessment,” Perrine said. And Perrine made it clear that “a player staggering on the field with his knees buckling should have immediately been pulled over to the sidelines for assessment.”

Hoke released a statement on Sunday that read, in part, “Morris was removed from [the] game…after further aggravating an injury to his leg that he sustained earlier in the contest. He was evaluated by our experienced athletic trainers and team physicians, and we’re confident proper medical decisions were made.”

Hoke wouldn’t go into specifics in today’s press conference, deflecting many questions until Michigan’s medical department released its statement, which has yet to happen. He said he left Morris in the game as long as he did “because [Morris] felt like he could still play” and the “guy’s a competitor.” He does not believe Morris suffered a concussion and thinks his stumble was attributed to a leg injury, not wooziness.

Worst of all, Hoke refuses to let this be a learning experience. Asked today if he’d handle the situation differently next time, he told the reporter, “You’re being hypothetical, and we’re not going to work in hypothetics.”

It doesn’t matter if Shane Morris sustained a concussion on Saturday. What matters is that it appeared he may have, and someone with the authority to remove Morris from the game should have recognized that. “Even if Morris was denying any problem, purely by seeing him collapse, that’s enough for them to take him out of the game and check him out,” Perrine said. “That’s the bottom line. It’s written in black and white in the NCAA guidelines.”

Update, 9:16 a.m.: Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon released a statement just before 1 a.m. reading, in part, “There was a serious lack of communication that led to confusion on the sideline. Unfortunately, this confusion created a circumstance that was not in the best interest of [Shane Morris] in…We have to learn from this situation, and moving forward, we will make important changes so we can fully live up to our shared goal of putting student-athlete safety first.” Brandon details an inefficient process for identifying potential head injuries and communicating information among medical staff and coaches and acknowledged, for the first time, what many assumed: Morris sustained a probable, mild concussion. He said that Hoke was not made aware of this before Monday’s press conference, which was also due to poor communication.

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