Scary night: 3 players leave with neck injuries

Updated: September 21, 2008, 6:22 PM ET
Associated Press

LSU and Auburn play another classic in what has become college football's most entertaining rivalry. Phillip Fulmer's approval rating takes a Dowlike dive and Rutgers plays like it's 1999 -- and nobody in Piscataway is partying about it.

Week 5 of the college football season also brings grim reminders of how dangerous this game can be.

The Big Story

Within a span of about 2 hours Saturday night, three major college football players went down with scary injuries to their heads and necks.

All were cautiously taken off the field and to a hospital. By Sunday, the news was all relatively good.

South Florida linebacker Brouce Mompremier, who jammed his head into a teammate while trying to make a tackle in the Bulls' game against Florida International, was cleared to leave a Miami hospital. The team said he'd miss at least two games and be evaluated early this week.

Washington State quarterback Gary Rogers took a late, helmet-to-helmet hit from a Portland State defender. After the game, Cougars coach Paul Wulff said Rogers was moving his extremities and the prognosis was good.

Ball State receiver Dante Love's injury was the most serious. After a helmet-to-helmet hit against Indiana, Love underwent a 5-hour surgical procedure to stabilize a back fracture. The school said Sunday that he was moving his arms and legs and he was alert.

The sight of a medical staffs immobilizing a player, then placing him on a backboard has become almost common at football games -- and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

"We are backboarding and using stretchers more than we have had in the past," said Al Green, the head athletic trainer for Florida Southern College in Lakeland. "There's a little more precaution taken than there was maybe 20 years ago."

Green, who was the head athletic trainer at Kentucky for 17 years and an assistant at Michigan, said the most important part of treating players with potentially catastrophic spinal injuries is to have a well-rehearsed plan.

"Everything from who's going to be in charge of the injury. Who's going to meet the ambulance at the gate. Who's going to be in contact with the EMT," Green said in a telephone interview. "At Kentucky, we had a variety of significant injuries but when it happened everything just sort of showed up."

Green said he starts assessing an injury when he begins making his way toward the hurt player.

"If I have an athlete who's screaming, I'm happy," he said. "That's because then he's breathing and has a pulse. My heart is really racing if I'm going out to an athlete who is not moving."

He said after consciousness is assessed, the athletic trainer can start testing the injured players' ability to move and feel.

Even the slightest responses are positive. All the while, Green said, it's important to communicate with the player.

"Be positive with them without lying to them," he said. "You don't go, 'Everything is going to be fine,' if you know it's not."

In the past three years, Georgia head athletic trainer Ron Courson has led a movement to raise awareness of proper tackling form. The National Athletic Trainers Association has been distributing videos and posters to college and high school teams, showing the dangers of hitting or taking a hit with the crown of the helmet.

"It's starts with coaches in practice," Courson said. "What you do in practice you're going to do in the game."

Tiger tales

For the benefit of all football fans, Auburn and LSU should have to play at least twice a season. Do any teams play better games than these two SEC West rivals?

The past five have been decided by 19 points. LSU won it's second straight Saturday night and became the first road team to win in the series in nine years with a 26-21 victory.

The defending national champions had only one major question heading into the season, but it was a big one: Who's going to play quarterback?

Jarrett Lee's stellar second half showed that LSU's got some talent at that position to go with stacked lineup everywhere else. While so much attention has gone to Georgia and Florida early this season, LSU, with it's dominant offensive and defensive lines, might still be the SEC's best team.

Step back

Rutgers is 0-3 for the first time since 1999 after losing to Navy. That was before coach Greg Schiano breathed life into a dead program. For a team with so much losing in it's past, one very bad season can set it back a long way. You can almost hear opposing coaches telling recruits, 'See, same old Rutgers.' Schiano needs to keep the Scarlet Knights' season from disintegrating into a two- or three-win debacle.

Getting warm

Most Tennessee fans haven't been truly happy with their coach in years. Phillip Fulmer won the Volunteers a national title in 1998 and is 148-45 in this his 17th seasons as coach, but it just hasn't been enough to keep many from wondering if it's time for a change.

The latest loss to Florida -- dropping Fulmer to 5-12 against the Gators -- has stirred the anti-Fulmer masses on the message boards and talk radio shows, but how likely would it be for Tennessee to make a change?

Fulmer just received a contract extension that runs through the next seven years and is coming off an SEC East title. Athletic director Mike Hamilton has always been a supporter.

This season would likely have to turn into a disaster -- think 4-8 -- for Fulmer to get pushed out.

Heisman-worthy

Javon Ringer of Michigan State has been carrying the Spartans. He had his second consecutive 200-yard rushing game on Saturday, leading Michigan State (3-1) past Notre Dame. He's averaging 36 carries per game, leads the nation in touchdowns (11), is second in rushing (174 ypg).

Lookahead

Alabama goes to Georgia and we'll find out just how far ahead of schedule Nick Saban's Crimson Tide really is.

Oklahoma gets what could be a tricky test when TCU comes to visit. The Horned Frogs were the last team to beat the Sooners in Norman back in 2005.

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Ralph D. Russo covers college football for The Associated Press. Write to him at rrussoap.org.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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