With Monday's final game of March Madness, we now know which is the best men’s college basketball team in the land.
However, several of the stories swirling about the conclusion of this year’s tournament have generated questions that should be asked.
So forgive me for asking but:
*Why did Louisville guard Kevin Ware break his leg like he did? I’ve watched the video repeatedly. He jumped high to block a shot, landed with his foot flat on the ground, and didn’t twist his ankle. Then his shin bone (tibia) just gave way – violently.
An elite college athlete should never have suffered such an injury – unless he had a pre-existing condition. My first thought was stress fracture. Had Ware been getting treatment in the training room for “shin splints” in the days or weeks leading up to his mishap? Or had he been suffering in silence, afraid he’d be benched if he sought the care of the Cardinals training staff?
For medical-legal reasons, we’ll probably never know.
As for Ware returning to play, the rod that now runs inside the length of his tibia will hasten his comeback. Already, he is bearing partial weight and, assuming the fracture caused no nerve or tendon damage, the sophomore guard should make a complete recovery.
*For the last three years at Rutgers University basketball practices, where was the sports medicine staff?
Was Eric Murdock, the team’s former director of player development, the only individual with the courage and character to speak up about the egregious behavior of head coach Mike Rice and assistant coach Jimmy Martelli?
An athletic trainer would have been present courtside for the entirety of every practice. A strength and conditioning coach and team physician would not have been there as much but would certainly have been more than casual observers.
Consequently, there is no doubt the sports medicine staff was aware of trouble.
Aside from its entirely inappropriate nature, the conduct in question was downright dangerous. Balls fired full-speed, without warning and at close range could have injured an eye, caused a concussion. The shoves and body blows delivered from behind or to the player’s blind side easily could have resulted in a sprained ankle or knee.
Were sports medics so fearful for their jobs that they remained silent? Or did they complain to superiors without effect?
I can’t buy the job security issue. Men’s basketball head athletic trainer Eric Bridenbaugh has been at Rutgers for 21 years. Head strength and conditioning coach Mike Johansen, who works directly with men’s basketball, has been there 20 years, and also carries the title of assistant athletic director. So does director of sports medicine Robert Monaco, MD, who has been there 17 years.
What did they know, when they know it, and what did they do about it? The answers to those questions are sure to come out in the discovery process of Murdock’s wrongful termination lawsuit and determine if staff members other than Rice, Martelli, university general counsel John Wolf, and athletic director Tim Pernetti lose their jobs.
John Doherty is a certified athletic trainer and licensed physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT.