Colt McCoy injury in the BCS National Championship Game
SOME THOUGHTS ON THE INJURY TO COLT MCCOY IN THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
It’s in the DNA of athletic trainers that when they see an injury on TV they have an inherent need to diagnose it. I am certainly guilty of that. First of all, let me say that I really felt bad for Colt McCoy on many levels. From afar, he strikes me as a solid kid who is well spoken, a leader, and someone who is faithful. Nowadays, people who are faithful are constantly being bashed in the media, particularly Christians. I admire his courage in not being shy about his beliefs. The same goes for Florida QB Tim Tebow…anyway, injuries are nonetheless part of the game, but it’s hard to see a kid lose an opportunity to compete in the final game of his collegiate career in potentially the biggest game of his life. I can’t imagine how he must have felt on that sideline watching the game unfold. I hope he makes a speedy recovery and I look forward to see what happens at the next level for him.
Initially when I saw the hit in slow motion, a few hypotheses ran threw my head. I wondered if there was an fracture of his scapula, which is pretty rare in football. I also thought he may have had an axillary nerve palsy. The axillary nerve is right about where he appeared to get hit and it innervates two muscles in the shoulder, mainly the big deltoid. I also wondered if he had a concussion because the blow he sustained caused his head to “whip” in the opposite direction and he seemed a little dazed after the play. As the game progressed and I read the reports on ESPN (not necessarily the most accurate source on injuries, but hey, it’s all we have!) it sounded like that he had no pain, but couldn’t feel his arm. If that is the case, he definitely suffered a nerve injury. Based on the fact that his head went to the side like that, I imagine he suffered what is commonly known as a “stinger” or a “burner”. In fancy medical lingo, it’s known as transient cervical neurapraxia.
So what is that? Well, anytime you hit your funny bone, that is essentially a transient neurapraxia. Transient because it is only temporary. In his case, the nerves to all arm muscles come out of the neck. As his head whipped to the side, I think the nerves got stretched, which caused the symptoms down the arm. If you are an experienced couch potato on Sundays, you may have seen football players with them. The classic sign is that they run off the field and the arm looks dead. Colt did a good job covering that up as far as I can recall. Anyway, the time it takes to go away can certainly vary. Unfortunately for him, it just took too long. I have no idea if he’s experienced these before, but usually if you have a history of them, you are at risk for them to happen again and over time, the symptoms tend to last longer when you get them.
Could anything have been done to “get him through?” The short answer to that is no. Plain and simple. There isn’t a magic exercise or massage technique or any fancy toy available that would take care of that. I suppose that answer may seem obvious because if there was they would have done it, but unfortunately, this world is full of everyone who’s got great ideas that have no substance. His injury was just an unfortunate thing and part of the game.
Now, there can be some rehab done on these. First of all, strengthening of the neck muscles, upper trapezii, and the scapular stabilizers is a great start. In Colt’s case, I think he got it from the stretch of the muscles in the neck from it whipping to the side. Commonly, “stingers” happen this way, but usually the shoulder depresses too, causing further stretch. Most of the time, these happen as athletes make contact with an opposing player with their shoulder (for example, a running back lowering his shoulder to make contact with a defensive player). Because of the scapular depression, that’s why we need to also strengthen the scapular stabilizers. Position players can use neck rolls or “cowboy collars” to limit the sideflexion of the head, but that is not an option for him because he needs full head motion because of his position.
ANOTHER COMMENT ABOUT THE COLT MCCOY INJURY BUT IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SHOULDER…
If any of you have been to the doctor, I am sure you have at some point, had to sign the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) form. You know, the one that keeps all your information private. It drives me nuts that in professional sports and in big time college sports that cameras are hovering over the medical staffs as they evaluate injuries and right over the top of the staff when they evaluate people on the bench. Where’s their privacy? I know millions are watching and saw the injury happen, but why is it any of our business what it is? They should just tell people that they will or will not be returning due to an injury. It seemed like every two minutes during the national championship game they were commenting on it or getting updates. Believe me, I get it that it’s a huge game and he’s arguably the MVP for the Longhorns, but it’s a bit ridiculous that student athletic trainers and other staff have to hold up towels to keep the cameras from being in people’s faces. It’s just not necessary. It reminds me of those parasite paparazzi that hassle celebrities…
They have also got to do away with those cameras during injury evaluations. This actually came up when I was at the NFL Combine a few years back during my days with the Kansas City Chiefs. I understand that the NFL is trying to enhance the fan experience, but injuries and their evaluation should not be a part of this. I hope changes are made in this. It’s not fair to the injured athlete, and it’s certainly not fair to the medical staffs. I wonder if someday we’ll see someone try and bring litigation on a staff for how they treated an injury. Funny how everyone’s an expert from afar but have no idea how to respond if they are actually in that situation.
Hopefully, that makes sense. I hope he has a speedy recovery.