During a week 14 game against the Baltimore Ravens, Robert Griffin III scrambled for a crucial first-down before being tackled by Haloti Ngata and sustaining a knee injury. Replays clearly showed Griffin's knee being hyper-extended on the play, yet the rookie quarterback stayed in the game for four more plays before being shut down in favor of back-up quarterback Kirk Cousins.
How Griffin remained in the game became the focus yesterday of Robert Klemko's article in the USA Today, where the process for allowing injured players back into a game was called into question.
In the article, Redskins' team physician, Dr. James Andrews, refuted head coach Mike Shanahan's claim that he [Andrews] cleared Griffin to go back into the Ravens' game.
According to Klemko, Andrews said, "(Griffin) didn't even let us look at him. He came off the field, walked through the sidelines, circled back through the players and took off back to the field. It wasn't our opinion."
After Griffin took himself out of the game, Cousins lead the Redskins to a comeback 31-28 overtime victory that day, as well as a 38-21 win against the Cleveland Browns the next weekend.
Griffin was diagnosed with a lateral collateral ligament (LCL) injury after an examination after the Ravens game, but it was not reported if it was a grade 1, 2 or 3 injury.
The website Sportsinjuryclinic.com, discusses the LCL treatment by saying, "In grade 1 & 2 tears, conservative methods of treatment are usually preferred. These may need to be carried out for up to 8 weeks."
Grade 1 and 2 injuries are not as significant as grade 3 injuries.
Clearly, Griffin was not at a 100 percent yesterday, so the question then becomes, was he at risk by playing yesterday?
Although Andrews expressed concern, he still did not shut Griffin down for the matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.
"I'm the one that shut him down that day [against the Ravens], finally," Andrews said. "I've been a nervous wreck letting him come back as quick as he has. He's doing a lot better this week, but he's still recovering and I'm holding my breath because of it."
Ironically, the New York Giants' running back Ahmad Bradshaw injured his knee against the New Orleans Saints the same weekend, and missed the next game against the Atlanta Falcons. He was cleared to play against the Baltimore Ravens but struggled with the injury, especially in pass protection.
Prior to the game against Atlanta, Giants' head coach Tom Coughlin was asked if Bradshaw would be able to talk his way into the starting line-up against the Falcons. Coughlin responded, "Not if the doctor says he can't play."
At this point, players, coaches, doctors and management are stuck in a game of he-said, she-said with regard to player injuries.
For his part Robert Griffin III sent these messages via Twitter today, "Many may question, criticize & think they have all the right answers. But few have been in the line of fire in battle."
The usually unflappable Griffin may be feeling some heat for his decision to remain in yesterday's game, as he also tweeted, "I thank God for perspective and because of that I appreciate the support from everyone. I also appreciate the criticism."
Peter King of Sports Illustrated also wrote, "I'm not putting the black hat on one man. It's unfair. But let this be a lesson to this team, and every other one in the league: It's best to put safeguards in place before something like this threatens the short-term future of the starting quarterback in the heat of a playoff game."
Without assigning blame to the situation, it does appear that the NFL has to establish new protocols for dealing with all injuries. Currently, independent doctors examine players for head injuries, but this requirement should be mandated for all injuries, so that the passion of competition does not over-ride the long term impacts of an injury.
Yesterday's events should be a wake-up call to players, coaches, management and doctors that players and coaches should never be put in the position to self-monitor themselves regarding injuries. And doctors should be empowered to make the right medical decision for the player's health without interference.
Time will tell.
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