Opinions vary as to why so many injuries in 2015

Published 7:16 am Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The reason for a rash of injuries this season cannot be pinpointed by athletic directors, coaches and trainers.

Opinions vary as much as the injuries themselves.

Brandywine, Cassopolis, Dowagiac and Niles have all had to deal with assorted injuries this season.

Among them are season-ending knee injuries, hyper-extensions, head and neck injuries and ankles.

Last Friday night and Saturday afternoon, the Rangers, Bobcats and Vikings all lost players to injuries.

For Niles, it was the second straight week with a head or neck injury. Against Benton Harbor, Camron Canniff suffered a neck injury for the Vikings, while last Saturday it was Joe Avance.

“The neck injuries we sent in were strictly precautionary,” Niles athletic trainer Bob Taylor said. “One player, the head bent backwards and the back of the helmet hit his neck, the second happened when three players hit our player in the head, jamming his neck.”

Brandywine lost starting quarterback Vinny Peel to a neck injury late in its game against Parchment.

Peel was taken to the hospital where x-rays showed no break, but an MRI revealed two bulging discs. It is unknown if he will be able to return to the field this year.

“We have been hit with the injury bug this year,” Brandywine coach Mike Nate said. “We did a depth chart this morning (Sunday) and we have seven guys on Red Cross right now or done for the year. For a team that was already thin and rebuilding from what we lost last year, we couldn’t really afford to have this happen.”

Two years ago, the Michigan High School Athletic Association mandated new practice rules for “live contact.” After the first regular season game, teams are allowed no more than two collision practice days a week and no single pracetice may exceed three hours.

One of the purposes of the new rules was to limit helmet-to-helmet contact during practices.

Dowagiac coach Mike Stanger says it is too early to point to those rules as the reason for injuries this season.

“I think it is too soon to blame the MHSAA for the increase in injuries,” he said. “I would wait to see statistics for five years. Football is a very physical/violent sport. Our high school athletes are becoming bigger, faster and stronger by utilizing the weight room.”

Niles coach Antwon Jones has an opposing view. The Vikings will be missing 10 starters this week — eight due to injuries within the last week.

“I definitely think the lack of hitting hurts the kids, because you don’t let the kids hit each other all out in practice because you never want to risk them hurting one another,” he said. “So their first real contact of the week is during the game.”

Niles athletic trainer Bob Taylor see it yet another way.

“Actually, this year has been somewhat normal to light as far as injuries are concerned,” he said. “There have been years where we have had up to 15 kids out at the same time. This year, we have had three concussions in football, compared to 23 two years ago. We have had two knee injuries that ended the season for both players (both the second day of practice).”

Niles athletic director Jeff Upton said they take all injuries seriously and try to provide the best medical treatment at all the games.

“I am not the expert on this, but two weeks in a row the Niles injury involved a head or neck,” he said. “These are injuries that we treat very carefully. The best option is to side on safety and mobilize the student athlete and be sure they are cleared by professionals. Niles has always taken our injuries seriously. We have a commitment to have a professional trainer at all sporting events and for football we also have a doctor at most games.

“Saturday and at Benton Harbor the week prior we had both our trainer and doctor assess the student-athlete before sending them to the hospital for complete exams.

The Niles football program has aggressively worn the Guardian helmets to try and limit potential head injuries. “We are very happy with the lack of concussions and head injuries and give Coach Jones and his implementation of the Guardian helmets as part of that success.”

With still half the season remaining, there are bound to be more injuries. The staffs at all the area high schools will be trying to minimize them as best they can and care for those injured immediately and as quickly as possible.