The topic of concussions in sports has been a hot one over the past few years, especially when it comes to football. The NCAA has implemented rules in an attempt to prevent such injuries such as the often-cursed targeting foul and the defenseless player tweaks this year alone. With Tommy Armstrong Jr.’s status against Minnesota still up in the air (as of this writing), the question remains, should he play even if he’s cleared?
If he does, Nebraska has already set a precedent that it has a medical staff which is competent in making that call.
Zack Darlington, a Husker slot receiver and “emergency” quarterback, will be the official backup to Ryker Fyf,e assuming Armstrong isn’t a go this weekend against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. I feel it necessary to mention Darlington, as there was a point where personally, I’d rather his scholarship be honored but he never play a snap of football as a Cornhusker.
These feelings weren’t because I felt he was a poor player, but because of his injury-riddled past. Having the experience of being a father, the reality of my child being further injured to the extreme is terrifying.
As a senior at Apopka High School, Darlington was ranked as the No. 12 dual-threat quarterback in the country by 247Sports’ Composite Index and appeared a quality get for the Cornhuskers. I tuned in to watch Apopka play their first game of the season on Aug. 24, 2013, curious about what this young man could bring to the table.
Shortly after the game began, I watched him take a nasty hit. His head bounced off the turf, and eventually he was helicoptered off the field to a nearby medical facility.
The severity of what I had just seen dropped a weight in my stomach. Apopka played on, but my mind was on Zack. Not as a Cornhusker, but as a human being, as a son.
Fortunately, Darlington eventually regained consciousness and was moving all extremities, but this was his second concussion in two months. At that point, doesn’t one have to give legitimate thought to the idea of hanging up the cleats for health reasons if nothing else? Regardless, then-Nebraska head football coach Bo Pelini did something I was — and still am — very proud of him for. He said one way or another, Zack was a part of the program and his scholarship would be honored no matter what.
He’s undergone all kinds of tests, MRIs, CT scans, just about everything we humans have at our disposal to determine the damage inside our skulls.
This past offseason, the young man that I have been concerned about since he stepped on campus made the switch to slot receiver. If you’re going to take a shot as a receiver, it’s going to be over the middle, and that was his chosen route (pardon the pun). According to Nebraska’s medical staff, he’s good to catch passes and maybe even take hits as a signal-caller.
It is because of this clearance that even though I would be concerned, I trust in the Husker medical experts should they clear Armstrong to play.
Also note that the University of Nebraska is home to the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior, or CB3 for short. The goal of this center is to “enable diverse studies to expand understanding of brain function and its effects on human behavior.” Concussion research is a main focus of what CB3 pours time, energy and resources into.
While Armstrong may or may not be subject to tests by this center, it shows that Nebraska is at the forefront of diagnosing and preventing this type of trauma.
Should the people who run tests for concussions give Mike Riley a thumbs up, the Big Red’s head coach should take comfort in his starting quarterback playing to the best of his abilities.