The sideline is often the worst place to watch a football game. Even for the head coach standing front and center, getting a good look at what is happening on the field can be difficult.
Behind the coach can be 100 players and dozens of assistants and staffers packed into an area 50 yards long, all zipping from play to play.
How is a coach supposed to look for injuries in all that activity, and still run his team? With plenty of help.
Michigan’s athletic director apologized Tuesday after quarterback Shane Morris was allowed to play after taking a late hit that left him wobbly. Morris, who also had a sprained ankle, stayed in the game for one more play after the big hit. The school said athletic trainers did not test him for a concussion because they didn’t see the late hit. Head coach Brady Hoke allowed Morris to go back into the game for one play before he was finally tested for a concussion.
The situation has raised questions about Michigan’s decision-making process and about whose responsibility it is to be looking for injuries amid chaos on the field.
All major college football programs have athletic trainers and team doctors on the sideline, along with a group of student assistants. Assistant coaches are also told to be on alert for injuries.
While coaches are expected to be aware of their players, for the medical staff, it’s the top priority.
“Our trainers and doctors are looking at the game at a whole different perspective than I am,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said.
Some programs rely on more than just the medical staff. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said his head athletic trainer, Rob Hunt, uses student trainers as spotters to watch for injured players.
Between trainers, doctors and student assistants, most big-time college football programs will have about 20 people on the sideline who are in part of a medical staff.
At a Clemson football game, the Tigers will have seven full-time athletic trainers and doctors on the sideline, plus another 15 student assistants.
“We have a monstrous medical staff. We’ve got doctors for doctors,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
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