ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) – Michigan announced changes to its injury protocol Tuesday, admitting it made a mistake in handling quarterback Shane Morris following a suspected concussion because of a “serious lack of communication” and “confusion” among the coaching staff.
Athletic director Dave Brandon said Michigan plans to have a medical professional in the press box or video booth at future football games after what happened over the weekend.
Coach Brady Hoke has been criticized for not immediately sitting Morris for the rest of the game after the sophomore took a hard hit in the fourth quarter against Minnesota on Saturday. Hoke said Monday he didn’t see the hit on Morris, and that all he knew at the time was that his quarterback was dealing with an ankle issue.
About 12 hours later, Brandon released a statement saying Morris had eventually been diagnosed with a probable concussion.
“In my judgment, 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 one of our student-athletes,” Brandon said. “I sincerely apologize for the mistakes that were made.”
University President Mark S. Schlissel apologized to Morris, his family and teammates.
As the leader of our university community, I want to express my extreme disappointment in the events surrounding the handling of an on-field injury to one of our football players,” Schlissel said. He said he has asked the athletics department to give him and the Board of Regents “a thorough review of our in-game player safety procedures, particularly those involving head injuries.”
“Despite having one of the finest levels of team medical expertise in the country, our system failed on Saturday. We did not get this right,” he said.
Brandon outlined two changes Michigan will make immediately.
“We will have an athletic medicine professional in the press box or video booth to ensure that someone will have a bird’s eye view of the on-field action, have television replay available and have the ability to communicate with medical personnel on the sidelines,” Brandon said. “We are also examining how to reinforce our sideline communication processes and how decisions will be made in order to make sure that information regarding student-athlete availability to participate is communicated effectively amongst the medical team and to our coaches.”
Morris took a crunching hit from Minnesota’s Theiren Cockran and briefly looked as if he was having trouble standing, but he remained in for the next play and threw an incompletion before coming out of the game. Devin Gardner replaced Morris, but later on that drive, Gardner’s helmet came off at the end of a play. While Gardner sat out for a play, as required, Morris went back in and handed the ball off to a running back.
Asked Monday if Morris had been diagnosed with a concussion, Hoke said: “Everything that I know of, no.” Hoke said Morris would have practiced Sunday night if not for a high ankle sprain.
In his statement, Brandon said: “As of Sunday, Shane was diagnosed with a probable, mild concussion, and a high ankle sprain. That probable concussion diagnosis was not at all clear on the field on Saturday or in the examination that was conducted postgame. Unfortunately, there was inadequate communication between our physicians and medical staff, and Coach Hoke was not provided the updated diagnosis before making a public statement on Monday.”
Brandon said Morris had been treated for a sprained ankle earlier in the game, and medical staff on the sideline believed that was why he stumbled while trying to walk around after being hit by Cockran.
“The team neurologist, watching from further down the field, also did not see the hit. However, the neurologist, with expertise in detecting signs of concussion, saw Shane stumble and determined he needed to head down the sideline to evaluate Shane,” Brandon said.
As for how Morris went back in after Gardner’s helmet came off:
“Shane came off the field after the (incomplete pass) and was reassessed by the head athletic trainer for the ankle injury,” Brandon said. “Since the athletic trainer had not seen the hit to the chin and was not aware that a neurological evaluation was necessary, he cleared Shane for one additional play.”
Brandon said the neurologist and other team physicians were not aware Morris was being asked to return to the field, and Morris left the bench when he heard his name called and went back into the game.
“Under these circumstances, a player should not be allowed to re-enter the game before being cleared by the team physician,” Brandon said.
Hoke has been under mounting scrutiny as his team struggles for the second straight season. But Brandon did not single him out for falling short in what happened with Morris.
In 2004, when he was the coach at Ball State, Hoke was formally reprimanded by his athletic director after a football player got frostbite during a disciplinary workout in subzero temperatures. Athletic director Bubba Cunningham said the disciplinary workout was acceptable, but not in severe weather conditions.
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