Thursday, September 27, 2012
Injury information reform needed in Big 12?
By David Ubben
When Oklahoma State quarterback Wes Lunt went down nearly two weeks ago, he clutched his left knee immediately and writhed in pain.
It was easy to fear the worst.
In the days that followed, those fears proved unfounded. Lunt's injury, Oklahoma State said, wasn't as bad as previously believed. He might be back in a couple of weeks, maybe longer.
Would he play against Texas on Saturday, though? Coach Mike Gundy said there wouldn't be any official word until a day before the game when Oklahoma State traditionally releases its injury report.
The Cowboys don't seem too keen on updating Lunt's status, but they've been more forthcoming than most.
He'll probably practice later in the week after getting out of a knee immobilizer, Gundy said. There would be more word on his status on Friday.
Gundy has been reasonably forthcoming with his high-profile injury, but as Pac-12 dust-ups have pushed injury information to the forefront, should Gundy and his colleagues be set on equal ground when it comes to what they do and don't have to reveal about injuries?
"I don’t know that you could ever control it," Gundy said. His Friday report, though basic and terse, is more than some coaches across the league offer.
"Whether you could regulate it at the college level, I don’t know that it would ever be consistent," Gundy said. "One coach could say a guy is probable and he’s really not, so I don’t know how you’d ever really measure and get a feel for what the exact injury report would be."
Kansas coach Charlie Weis will answer questions from the media on Tuesdays, using an NFL-style scale. If a player has a 75 percent chance to play, Weis will tell the media he's "probable." If he's questionable, he's got a 50 percent chance to play. Doubtful, 25 percent.
"I think that you have to understand on the one hand, you don’t want to be giving your opponent any information they don’t need to know. On the other hand, I think the writers and reporters have an ethical responsibility to try to do their job," Weis said. "The thing is, how many people are going to give you an honest evaluation? That really is a bit subjective, but there’s always going to be gray area when it comes to injuries, and because there’s nothing uniform, there’s no value in trying to tell everyone what’s going on injury-wise because the other guys don’t have to do the same thing."
Weis' in-state rival, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, won't ever address a player's injury. Some schools only address injuries if they're season-ending.
"It doesn’t do any good to hide anything [about injuries,]" coach Tommy Tuberville said. "There probably needs to be somewhere, somehow looked into a national way to do it. Everybody on the same page. "
Texas Tech, though?
"There’s so much information that comes out on Facebook and Twitter that even gets around us a little bit. We’re one of those we just tell how it is, when it is, how it happened," Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. "It doesn’t do any good to hide anything. There probably needs to be somewhere, somehow looked into a national way to do it. Everybody on the same page."
Like Weis, Texas coach Mack Brown favors an NFL-style injury report early in the week. Brown says he'll bring up the idea at the league's spring meetings next year.
In order to report injuries on a consistent basis like that, however, schools may have to get around federal HIPA laws that protect the privacy of students' health.
More challenges await coaches, too.
"You’ve watched us around here, we try to be as honest as we can," Brown said.
The Longhorns are dealing with injury issues of their own, waiting to see if running back Joe Bergeron (shoulder), linebacker Jordan Hicks (hip) and kicker Anthony Fera (groin) will be available when the Horns play at Oklahoma State on Saturday.
"It’s a very difficult thing for coaches, because you don’t know. ... Things change," Brown said. "When people ask to evaluate or give an evaluation from your doctors and trainers on Sunday or Monday and then maybe you say they get ready to play and they get hurt on Wednesday. I think that’s maybe something we can all talk about and see how much information you can give out and what’s best to give out and trying to be honest and fair. It’s a very difficult thing."
At Texas, Brown can only tell the media exactly what trainers tell him, and assistant coaches aren't allowed to talk about injuries.
"If you say a guy can play and he goes and has a pulled muscle on Tuesday, it looks like you lied, so it is a difficult thing," Brown said. "If you’re coming off injuries, you’re not going to practice them at the same speed you do other guys in some cases, so you may not know until game time whether they’re ready to play."
The only thing anyone knows for sure is coaches are torn on a weekly basis with so much variance and so little information required.
How much information should be given? Should it always be the right information? Do you endanger players by giving out too much? The conversation has arrived, and it sounds like there'll be plenty more when the season is over.
"I really wish that either across the board we’d have no comment or maybe we go to an NFL style and the trainers are the only ones that can comment and you have to come forth with it, and if it’s wrong, there’s some penalty," Brown said. "I don’t know, but we’re all over the place with injuries right now and it’s a very difficult thing to do."