By Max Craddock
On Sept. 26, the Michigan Wolverines were playing the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a Big 10 conference matchup.
The Wolverines were getting crushed 30-7 late in the fourth quarter as they desperately attempted to claw their way back into the game.
During a third-and-sixteen play, quarterback Shane Morris desperately threw the ball downfield. After he released the pass he took a vicious illegal hit to the head from Minnesota defensive lineman Theiren Cockran.
Morris was slow to his feet, and once he stood up, he had a hard time remaining upright. His teammates pleaded with him to go off the field, but Morris feebly waved them off. It was obvious to everyone in the stadium—expect for maybe Morris—that he was concussed.
Morris returned to the huddle and ran the next play. It was understandable that he was fighting to stay in the game, as many athletes are willing to risk every part of their body in order to win.
However, the fact that Michigan’s coaching and training staff didn’t remove Morris from the game is appalling.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke deflected criticism the next week at a press conference. After a reporter asked Hoke if he should have left Morris in the game, Hoke refused to answer the question, claiming that he would not talk about hypotheticals.
He claims that he delegates roles on the sideline and that it is the training staff’s role to get injured players off the field, not his.
Hoke, who is already on the hot seat for his team’s poor play, was clearly trying to do everything in his power to save face and keep his job. This incident was met with campus-wide protests at the University of Michigan, as students called for him to resign or be fired.
Just days after the Morris incident, PBS’s Frontline released a report in which they found that 76 of the 79 former football players’ brains they studied had shown signs of brain trauma.
These studies were conducted posthumously, after many of the brains were donated by former players. One of these players, Dave Duerson, suffered so much from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) that he committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest in order to preserve his brain for medical research.
Another former NFL star Junior Seau also committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. It was later found that he too suffered from CTE.
Football has reacted to new findings about the impacts of repeated brain trauma through proactive rule changes.
In college football, a player is ejected from a game and suspended for the first half of their next game if they are found to be targeting an opponent’s head.
In the NFL, a player is not allowed to return to a game if they are found to have a concussion or concussion-like symptoms.
However, there are still many changes football must make to improve the brain health of its players.
The first place to start would be to make an example of Michigan coach Brady Hoke through suspension or firing, to show that football is no longer a place where brain injuries are taken lightly.